A group of scientists from the University of Arizona has challenged the current views on the evolution of Martian geodynamics. A new report from the researchers suggests that Mars’ interior is far more active than previously believed, and that a giant mantle plume is currently lifting the surface upward, causing marsquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Learning more about the Martian surface has been a priority for NASA and astronomers for several years now. With Perseverance currently gathering data about the planet’s surface, which will return to Earth with the Mars sample return mission, we could very well know more about this planet than ever very soon. Until then, though, scientists are busy going over data that satellites and spacecraft have captured.
Mars landscape captured by the Pathfinder lander. Image source: NASA/JPL
Some interesting bits of data seem to suggest that Mars’ interior is home to a mantle plume that is far more active than scientists originally thought. The research was published in Nature Astronomy. In the study, they detail how they were drawn to a surprising amount of activity in a region of Mars known as Elysium Planitia.
What makes this area so intriguing, especially for studying Mars’ interior, is that the region has been home to numerous large eruptions over the past 200 million years. NASA’s InSight Lander discovered that nearly all of the known marsquakes originate from this area. They believe that a mantle plume is the cause of all the movement we’ve seen here.
While a mantle plume isn’t surprising, the researchers say that the activity in the area suggests that the plume is much larger than previously believed. This means that Mars’ interior is far more active than scientists have believed. And that could bring other implications with it, too.
Having an active plume active in Mars’ interior could change everything we know about the geology of the planet, something that the researchers argue heavily in their paper. If these reports do prove to be true, it is possible it could change plans for a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.