By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
For years, researchers have suspected that Mars was loaded with ancient volcanoes, but they could never find any. Well, a study from the Planetary Science Institute suggests that the lava-spewing bodies were hiding right under their noses… disguised as craters!
When scientists searched for Martian volcanoes, they mainly focused on finding tall, cone-shaped mountains, so it’s no surprised they ignored all the sunken craters. But, according to the new study, some of the holes are volcanoes!
“This is a totally new kind of process that we hadn’t thought about for Mars, and it changes the way we view the evolution of the planet,” said lead study author Joseph Michalski.
He and his team focused on a “crater” called Eden Patera. Apparently, it resembles collapsed volcanoes on Earth called “calderas” (Spanish for cauldron). The similarities suggest that Eden Patera and others shaped like it are actually supervolcanoes.
Well, why don’t they look like typical mountain-shaped ones? Simple. The volcanoes were so violent and explosive, that they collapsed under their own might! The last real blast from Eden Patera supposedly took place around 3.5 billion years ago and it’s estimated to be the largest in the planet’s history. “By the time you’d get to see that, you’ll be dead, because it’s quite a massive, violent activity,” Michalski said. “No one’s really ever witnessed it, because if you did, you wouldn’t be here to tell about it.”
The researchers hope this discovery will provide them with a window into the past for the Red Planet’s atmosphere.
Images courtesy of NASA, JPL, and GSFC.