Explosive Mars: Chain of Volcanic Eruptions Most Likely Shaped the Red Planet's Unusual Region
A new study revealed that the unusual region on Mars called Thaumasia Planum was most likely created by a chain of volcanic eruptions.
The study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets, showed that the changing chemical compositions at the mountain ridge outlining Greater Thaumasia suggest that the high elevation of the area was built in a series volcanic event.
"The chemical changes we see moving northwestward through the region is consistent with the mantle evolving on Mars. Our research supports that this whole area was built as a volcanic construct," explained Don Hood, LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics doctoral candidate and lead author of the study, in a press release. "The chemical composition shifting is the key progression that tells us that this environment was most likely shaped by a series of volcanic events that continually erupted from a changing mantle composition."
For the study, the researchers analyzed the geography and mineralogy of the area. Additionally, the researchers used Gamma Ray Spectrometer data collected by the Mars Odyssey Orbiter to determine chemical compositions of the region.
The researchers found out that the chemical composition along the Greater Thaumasia is changing, with the concentration of silica and H20 increase from southeast to northwest. On the other hand, the level of potassium decreases.
Investigating possible traces of aqueous alteration through other geochemical means, the researchers did not find any evidence supporting their hypothesis that the abundance of potassium and H20 was caused by water interacting in rock.
Geochemical analysis also showed that the sulfur found in the region was most likely deposited as a volcanic ash. This suggests that the volcanic ash that can be found in various areas of Mars could be evidence of explosive volcanisms in the Red Planet.
By determining whether Mars underwent explosive volcanism, scientists could find out what the past climate on Mars was like.