We have the first evidence of volcanic convection on Mars

Hyperaxion May 14, 2020

Scientists thought for several years that Mars was dead. However, several pieces of evidence have begun to suggest that the Red Planet is geologically active.

The idea that Mars was geologically active has just become even more real. A meteorite, which formed deep in the Red Planet, has just provided the first chemical evidence of magma convection within the Martian mantle.

We have the first evidence of volcanic convection on Mars
Mars. (Credit: Aynur ZakirovPixabay).

The olivine crystals found in the Tissint meteorite may have formed due to changes in temperature caused by magma convection currents. Scientists say this proves that Mars was volcanically active when the crystals formed, between 574 and 583 million years ago.

Nicola Mari, a geologist at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, explains that this study, recently published on Meteoritics & Planetary Science, proves the existence of activity inside this planet from a purely chemical point of view. Olivine, which forms when the magma cools, is one of the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust and very common in meteorites.

The scientist explains that, in the magma chamber where the crystals of the Tissint meteorite formed, “the convection was so vigorous that the olivines were moved from the bottom of the chamber (hotter) to the top (cooler) very rapidly – to be precise, this likely generated cooling rates of 15-30 degrees Celsius per hour for the olivines“.

“I really think that Mars could be a still volcanically active world today, and these new results point toward this,” Mari told ScienceAlert. “We may not see a volcanic eruption on Mars for the next 5 million years, but this doesn’t mean that the planet is inactive. It could just mean that the timing between eruptions between Mars and Earth is different.”

Image captured on January 1, 2018 by ESA's Mars Express High Resolution Camera
Image captured on January 1, 2018 by ESA’s Mars Express High Resolution Camera.

The traces of nickel and cobalt found in the crystals suggest that they formed at a depth between 40 and 80 kilometers (25 to 50 miles) under the Martian crust. With these data, scientists can calculate the pressure under which the crystals formed, and, consequently, the temperature of the mantle at the time – estimated at 1,560ºC.

This temperature is very similar to that of the Earth’s mantle, between 4 and 2.5 billion years ago, estimated at 1,650ºC. This reinforces the hypothesis that Mars may be volcanically active. Still, more research is needed on the subject.

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