A giant volcano has been discovered on Mars

Scientists have discovered a massive eroded volcano near the Martian equator with the remains of a glacier at its foot. According to experts, Noctis, as it has been provisionally named, is an excellent target for future missions to explore the geology of the Red Planet and search for possible traces of life there.

The giant volcano, provisionally named “Noctis”, is located south of the Martian equator, in the eastern part of Noctis Labyrinthus, west of Valles Marineris, the Red Planet's vast valley system. Its discovery was announced at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Giant Noctis volcano

The volcano rises to a height of more than nine kilometers and extends 450 kilometers in width. Its size and structure indicate that it was active for a very long time. Most likely there is a glacier in its southeastern part. – We looked at the geological features of the area where we discovered the remains of a glacier last year. “We realized we were looking at the interior of a massive, eroding volcano,” said Dr. Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute and NASA's Ames Research Center. Researchers believe that the caldera, a depression located at the top of the volcano, once contained a lake. There are also traces of flowing lava and pyroclastic deposits, made up of material ejected by the volcano, as well as hydrated minerals.

Surface of MarsNASA

A volcano can be described as a vast shield made up of successive layers of pyroclastic material, lava and ice deposited in the meantime. This region of Mars is famous for containing many hydrous minerals that were formed at different periods of its history. The action of volcanoes in this regard has been in doubt for a long time. So finding a volcano in this place may not be surprising. The large volcano is, in a sense, a long-awaited clue, said Saurabh Shubham of the University of Maryland. This unusual structure is accompanied by volcanic deposits covering an area of ​​five thousand square kilometers. There are traces of a very long history of changes, possibly as a result of rock cracking and thermal and glacial erosion. However, many mysteries remain unsolved. For example, it is not known when volcanic activity began. It is also difficult to determine whether it is still active despite the effects of relatively recent eruptions.

A good location for future research expeditions

According to scientists, this is an excellent location for organizing future missions to explore the geology of Mars and search for possible traces of life. – It's actually a combination of things that make Noctis Volcano particularly exciting. “It's an ancient, long-lived volcano, and it's eroded so badly that you can walk, drive or fly over it to study it, collect samples, date different parts of it and study the evolution of Mars,” Lee noted. It also has a long history of thermal interaction with water and ice, making it an excellent place for astrobiological research and searching for signs of life. In addition, the vicinity of the preserved glacier, near the surface, in the relatively warm equatorial region of Mars, is an attractive place for missions involving robots and humans. The authors of the discovery used data from several different Mars missions: Mariner 9, Viking 1 and 2, Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Express.

Main image source: NASA

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