There are volcanic eruptions and then there are volcanic "super-eruptions". NASA paints a picture of a past Mars saying it was a hellish landscape of molten rock, gas and ash. Scientists researching the history of Arabia Terra, an area on northern Mars, have discovered that it probably hosted thousands of huge super-explosions.
In a statement Wednesday, NASA described the super-explosions as "so powerful that they release oceans of dust and toxic gases into the air, blocking sunlight and changing the planet's climate for decades."
A paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters shows evidence that Arabia Terra hosted many erupting volcanic eruptions over 500 million years ago, about 4 billion years ago.
NASA says a super-explosion could blow up the equivalent of 400 million Olympic-sized molten rock and gas pools. After that, the volcano then collapses into a large hole known as a caldera. We have volcanic calderas on Earth, including the huge crater caldera in Yellowstone National Park in the USA.
The researchers looked at seven calipers at Arabia Earth on Mars which were already suspected to be of volcanic origin. The team searched for the ash that the ancient explosions would leave behind and found it.
Using images and data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists tracked the ash from the volcanoes and found well-preserved layers of the material. It would take thousands of explosions to deposit all the ash.
The data on the volcanic history of Mars will be of great concern to scientists as they work out the impact that super-eruptions could have on the red planet's climate. There is also a question as to why Arabia Terra is the only place on Mars that appears to have hosted these erupting volcanoes.
Source of information: cnet.com