Active Mars

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Active Mars

Mars isn’t quite dead yet. A volcanic region on the planet appears to have stayed active for the past 500 million years. And it’s still producing tremors in the Martian surface.

Tharsis is the largest volcanic region on Mars. It consists of several giant volcanoes, including some of the largest in the entire solar system. It also includes hundreds of smaller volcanoes, plus many related features.

The volcanoes began building about four billion years ago. And many of them have kept building until fairly recently. We don’t see any eruptions today. But there’s evidence that some of them may have erupted within the past hundred thousand years — the blink of an eye on the planetary time scale.

And a recent study found that the activity may not be over yet — below the surface. Images reveal big boulder slides on the flanks of some of the volcanoes and other features — perhaps triggered by volcanic activity. And the InSight lander, which listened for marsquakes, heard activity in the region as well — including one of the most powerful quakes during its entire mission.

A research team says that probably means there are still pockets of molten rock below some Tharsis volcanoes — so at least part of Mars isn’t dead yet.

Look for Mars high in the southwest as darkness falls. It looks like a bright orange star. A true star stands close above it: El Nath, “the butting one” — the tip of the horn of Taurus, the bull.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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