A new study suggests that a volcano on Mars roughly the half the size of Frances erupted with such alacrity about 3.5 billion yeas ago that is spewed enough lava to completely displace the outer layers of the planet essentially “reorganizing” the location of the both the north and south poles.
Really big Martian volcano
When I visited Pompeii as a teenager, I asked myself why anyone would possibly want to live anywhere near a volcano. Last night, as a number of friends and I set out from Antigua, Guatemala on a 20-mile drive I asked myself why wouldn’t every one want to live within 25 miles of the highly active Volcan Fuego. For the last two months, Fuego has been putting on a show for my friends and I along with all the residents of this valley. Hell, we play golf on the side of it at a newly opened Pete Dye designed golf course. BUT Fuego is not half the size of France.
The findings by Dr Sylvain Bouley, a geomorphologist at Universite Paris-Sud, were published Wednesday in the journal Nature. We’re not talking about a small eruption or a small amount of lava, rather, we’re talking about an eruption that sent out billions upon billions of tons of lava.
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The doctor’s findings answer a number of questions that had befuddled scientists for some time with regards to dry river beds that had little business being where they were found as well as the discover of underground reservoirs of water ice that were discovered last year.
“If a similar shift happened on Earth, Paris would be in the polar circle,” said Dr Sylvain Bouley also explaining why “half the size of France” was used as a size comparison for the ancient volcano.
“We’d see northern lights in France, and wine grapes would be grown in Sudan.”
Bouley believes that the eruption,or perhaps more appropriately, upheaval, lasted for about 200 million years while also tilting the surface of the Red Planet 20 to 25 degrees. With the upheaval, a plateau called the Tharsis Dome was also created and now measures over 5,000 kilometers square in width with a thickness of 12 kilometers.
“The Tharsis dome is enormous, especially in relation to the size of Mars. It’s an aberration,” Dr Bouley told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The Tharsis dome is so large that a theoretical study in 2010, showed that if the dome was moved, Mars would immediately shift on its axis.
Martian river beds explained
Dr. Bouley and his colleagues used computer models of theirs and those of other scientists to, in his mind, explain a number of Mars’ mysteries owing to the volcano.
“Scientists couldn’t figure out why the rivers [now dry riverbeds] were where they are. The positioning seemed arbitrary,” said Dr Bouley.
“But if you take into account the shift in the surface, they all line up on the same tropical band.”
Bouley explains that this volcanic upheaval also explains why the underground reservoirs of frozen water ice on Mars are located where they are rather than closer to the poles. Quite simply, they were.
The study answers a number of questions
“but there are still a lot of unanswered questions,” warned Dr. Bouley.
“Did the tilt cause the magnetic fields to shut down? Did it contribute to the disappearance of Mars’ atmosphere, or cause the rivers to stop flowing? These are things we don’t know yet.”