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A giant volcano has been discovered on Mars

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Scientists have discovered a massive, eroded volcano near the Martian equator with remnants of a glacier at its foot. According to experts, Noctis, as it was temporarily named, is an excellent target for future missions exploring the geology of the Red Planet and searching 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 canyon system. Its discovery was announced at the “Lunar and Planetary Science Conference” in Texas.

The giant Noctis volcano

The volcano rises to a height of over nine kilometers and extends to a width of 450 km. Its size and structure indicate that it was active for a very long time. There is most likely a water glacier on its southeastern part. – We looked at the geological properties of the area where we discovered the remains of a glacier last year. We realized we were looking at the interior of a huge, eroded volcano, said Dr. Pascal Lee of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center. Researchers believe that the caldera, a depression at the top of the volcano, formerly contained a lake. There are also traces of once flowing lava and pyroclastic deposits composed of material ejected by the volcano, as well as hydrated minerals.

The surface of MarsNASA

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The volcano can be described as a vast shield made of successive layers of pyroclastic material, lava and ice deposited in the meantime. – This region of Mars is known for containing many hydrated minerals that were formed at various points in its history. The action of volcanoes in this regard has been suspected for a long time. So finding a volcano in this place may not be that surprising. In a sense, the large volcano is a long-sought clue, said Sourabh Shubham from the University of Maryland. The 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, probably occurring as a result of rock cracking, thermal and glacial erosion. However, many mysteries remain unsolved. For example, it is not known when the volcanic activity began. It is also difficult to tell whether it is still active, despite traces of relatively recent explosions.

A good location for future research missions

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

Main photo source: NASA



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