News / Science & Technology

    Massive Martian Volcano Could Have Hosted Life

    File - The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends more than 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. Photo Cred
    File - The largest canyon in the Solar System cuts a wide swath across the face of Mars. Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends more than 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep. Photo Cred

    Related Articles

    Video Hubble's Dazzling Mission Nears Its End

    After almost 25 years of breathtaking images from space, telescope has had its last repair

    New Mars Lander to Probe Interior of Red Planet

    Launching NASA-led multinational effort, scientists hope to a get better idea of what Earth might have looked like very early in its history
    It’s nearly two times the height of Mount Everest and one of the largest mountains in the solar system, and new research says if life ever existed on Mars, this could have been one of its last hideouts.
     
    The volcano Arsia Mons, while still active, was covered by an enormous glacier around 210 million years ago,  researchers from Brown University say.
     
    The heat from the eruptions on the northwest flank of the giant volcano “would have melted massive amounts of ice to form englacial lakes — bodies of water that form within glaciers like liquid bubbles in a half-frozen ice cube,” according to researchers.
     
    It is a commonly held view that where there’s liquid water, there could be life.
     
    “This is interesting because it’s a way to get a lot of liquid water very recently on Mars,” said Kat Scanlon, a graduate student at Brown who led the study in a statement.
     
    Compared to areas being probed by the various Mars rovers, which are some 2.5 billion years old, the area around Arsia Mons is young.
     
    “If signs of past life are ever found at those older sites, then Arsia Mons would be the next place I would want to go,” Scanlon said.
     
    Scanlon added that on early Mars, there is evidence that many craters were filled with water to depths of hundreds of meters, and were connected by flowing rivers to other crater lakes in long, continuous systems.

     
    Braided fluvial channels (inset) emerge from the edge of glacial deposits roughly 210 million years old on the martian volcano Arsia Mons, nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. (Colors indicate elevation.)Braided fluvial channels (inset) emerge from the edge of glacial deposits roughly 210 million years old on the martian volcano Arsia Mons, nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. (Colors indicate elevation.)
    x
    Braided fluvial channels (inset) emerge from the edge of glacial deposits roughly 210 million years old on the martian volcano Arsia Mons, nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. (Colors indicate elevation.)
    Braided fluvial channels (inset) emerge from the edge of glacial deposits roughly 210 million years old on the martian volcano Arsia Mons, nearly twice as high as Mount Everest. (Colors indicate elevation.)
    “Some or all of these lakes may have been frozen over for some or all of the year, but large aqueous environments existed across a large band of latitudes at that time,” she said in an email to VOA. “210 million years ago, Mars was already in the ‘Amazonian era,’ the current geologic era, and conditions were much like they are today--liquid water wasn't stable at the surface, and probably flowed only in rare, short-lived trickles.”
     
    She added that besides the possibility for underground aquifers, volcanic eruptions into large bodies of ice are one of the few ways large water bodies could come into being in Mars’ Amazonian era.
     
    Since the 1970s, scientists have thought the northwest flank of the giant mountain could have been covered by a giant glacier, which, at its peak size, could have been up to 166,000 square kilometers, said Scanlon.
     
    That theory received a significant boost when researchers showed the area looked “strikingly similar to landforms left by receding glaciers in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.” The similarities included what appear to be moraines, telltale piles of rocks pushed aside by a moving glacier.
     
    Researchers said some small nearby hills also appear to be formed from glacial debris.
     
    Martian climate modeling also gave researchers reason to think there could have been glaciers on Arsia Mons. During the time in question, Mars would have been at an increased tilt, researchers said. This could have led ice from the polar region to migrate toward the equator.
     
    With compelling evidence that Arsia Mons was covered by a glacier, Scanlon and colleagues from the Lancaster Environmental Centre in the U.K   then looked at how volcanic activity would have interacted with the ice.
     
    Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, they discovered “pillow lava formations” that are similar to what forms on Earth when an underwater volcano erupts. She also discovered “the kinds of ridges and mounds that form on Earth when a lava flow is constrained by glacial ice.”
     
    They also found evidence of a river formed when meltwater trapped in a glacier breaks free.
     
    Using this data, Scanlon and her team were able to calculate how much water the lava in those areas could have produced. At one of the sites, they estimated two lakes containing around 40 cubic kilometers of water each could have been formed. At the other a lake containing around 20 cubic kilometers of water could have existed.
     
    These lakes could have lasted “hundreds or even a few thousand years,” according to the study. That would have been ample time for colonies of microbial life to form if present on the Red Planet.
     
    “There’s been a lot of work on Earth — though not as much as we would like — on the types of microbes that live in these englacial lakes,” Scanlon said in a statement. “They’ve been studied mainly as an analog to [Saturn’s moon] Europa, where you’ve got an entire planet that’s an ice covered lake.”
     
    What happened to all that water?
     
    “Some of the water flowed out from the edge of the glacier and carved channels,” Scanlon wrote. “The rest of the englacial lakes seem to have refrozen in place.”
     
    She added that when the spin-axis tilt of Mars changed, most of the ice sublimed into water vapor and snowed out back at the poles where we see it today.
     
    “Ice is only stable at the equator, where Arsia Mons is located, when Mars's spin-axis tilt is very steep,” she wrote. “Some ice may still be present in the deposit where a thick cover of debris prevents it from subliming.”

    A paper describing Scanlon’s work is published in the journal Icarus.

    You May Like

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.