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Mars Had Active Volcanoes 2 Billion Years Ago, Could Have Influenced Chance For Life

Feb 03, 2017 11:32 AM EST
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A lot of theories have already surfaced suggesting that the red planet is not as "dead" as it is today. Aside from the belief that water once flowed on Mars, a new study suggests that the planet had active volcanoes from 2 billion years ago.

If the data is correct, that would mean volcanic eruptions ruled planet Mars for at least half of its existence. The study suggests that a Mars meteorite called Northwest Africa (NWA) 7635 solidified 2.4 billion years ago, a date that is considered 2 billion years ahead than the rest. This means the planet is home to some oldest volcanoes in the Solar System.

Researchers from the University of Houston, led by professor Tom Lapen, conducted the recent study. To come up with the findings, the team analyzed a sample called NWA 7635 discovered in Algeria back in 2012. The 0.07 ounces (2 grams) of material was identified as a type of volcanic rock "shergottite" that solidified 2.4 billion years back.

In 2014, a number of meteorites were identified to have originated from Mars, according to a report. The researchers then compared NWA 7635 to a set of shergottites from Mars that were 327 to 574 million years old. These shergottites are believed to be from Mars blasted by an impact 1.1 million years ago.

"We see that they came from a similar volcanic source," professor Tom Lapen said in an interview. "Given that they also have the same ejection time, we can conclude that these come from the same location on Mars."

This means Mars was volcanically active 2 billion years ago to create a meteorite like NWA. The study was published in the journal Science Advances last Feb. 1. Some experts also suggest that the volcanic activity on Mars 2.4 billion years ago could have made the Martian environment conducive for life forms to exist.

"If these conditions have been going on for 2 to 3 billion years, if I was living on Mars as a microbe, that would be a good place to be as opposed to somewhere that's freezing," Jim Head, a geological sciences professor at Brown University who conducted a 2014 study said in an interview with Inverse.

The recent study drastically strengthens the knowledge of scientists about the volcanic activities on Mars.


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