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Mars Volcano, Dinosaurs Went Extinct at the Same Time

Mar 21, 2017 12:25 PM EDT
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A recent study revealed how a long ago a massive volcano in Mars halted activity.
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Separated by millions and millions of miles, Mars' giant volcano Arsia Mons and the dinosaurs who walked the Earth were recently found to have simultaneously met their end.

New NASA research discovered that volcanic activity at Arsia Mons stopped around 50 million years ago, according to a report from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This is also the time of Earth's infamous Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction when many of the planet's plants and animals died out, including the dinosaurs.

"We estimate that the peak activity for the volcanic field at the summit of Arsia Mons probably occurred approximately 150 million years ago -- the late Jurassic period on Earth -- and then died out around the same time as Earth's dinosaurs," Jacob Richardson, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, explained. "It's possible, though, that the last volcanic vent or two might have been active in the past 50 million years, which is very recent in geological terms."

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

Mars' giant volcano, Arsia Mons, is found just south of Mars' equator, one of three volcanoes collectively known as Tharsis Montes. The last volcanic activity is believed to have occurred in the vast caldera, which measured at about 68 miles and contained 29 volcanic vents.

Richardson and his team developed a new computer model that combined two types of information available: the stratigraphy of the lava flows and ages of the flows by crater counting. With this technique, the researchers were able to determine the ages of the vents.

The oldest lava flows were recorded at roughly 200 million years old, while the youngest are believed to be in the range of 10 to 90 million years, likely 50 million years old.

The researchers also found out that the vents of the Arsia Mons churned out about 0.25 to 2 cubic miles of magma every few million years. Over time, it added significant bulk to the massive size of Arsia Mons.

"Think of it like a slow, leaky faucet of magma," Richardson said. "Arsia Mons was creating about one volcanic vent every 1 to 3 million years at the peak, compared to one every 10,000 years or so in similar regions on Earth."

The study was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Read Also: Asteroid Impact, One-Third the Size of the One That Killed Dinosaurs, Wiped Out Ancient Native American Civilization

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