Mars Quakes, Mars Really Does Shake, Rattle and Roll…

Mars is often thought of as a cold dead rock floating in the silence of space. That is until now, scientific evidence collected by the latest satellites suggest that Mars has recently experienced geological activity.

It has long been known that Mars had been very active geologically in the past, with the solar system’s largest known volcano there was once major activity. That was the long lost past though, after an unknown calamity Mars was thought to have become a dormant planet.

Researcher Gerald Roberts from the University of London led the study which analyzed high resolution images of rocks surrounding the Cerberus Fossae fault line, looking for evidence of geological activity. The biggest surprise occurred when they actually found it. Mars it seems still has an active core with molten magma often bubbling to the surface, driving Mars quakes and volcanoes.

Raising not only the possibility of basic forms of life around these hot magma vents but also the extremely tantalizing idea of rejuvenating Mars. Bringing complex life back to the Martian surface or Terra-forming.

Using a set of high resolution images from the aptly named High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment – HiRISE – researches have studied the Martian fault system known as Cerberus Fossae. Looking at the distribution of rocks falling from the cliffs the data seems to indicate that the fault is active. The distribution patterns allowed the researches to eliminate water flow or wind as the means of motion for the boulders. Not only is the fault active but the distances the rocks have been moved suggests the previous mars-quake was in excess of a 7.0 magnitude.

Each of the boulders that were displaced by the mars-quake left a trail in the Martian dirt. Like hunters following animal tracks the trails were key to identifying the rocks that had been shaken lose by a mars-quake. The trails left by the displaced boulders were an interesting piece of evidence in themselves, Mars like Earth is a rather dusty and windy place generally covering trails within a few years. Many of the Mars rovers tracks have already been covered over in this way. The fact that these trails were still visible could indicate that the Mars-quake that shook the rocks loose had happened in the last couple of years.

If the Mars-quakes are similar to Earth quakes the magma flowing to the nearby volcano Elysium Mons is thought to be responsible for the ongoing quakes. This would also suggest that the Martian core itself is still active, containing a hot core surrounded by magma with magma periodically reaching the surface through volcano’s. Mars is also home to the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, a 30km tall volcano that was thought to be a long dormant giant, this may not be true, it also may still be active.

This would seem to indicate that Mars may not be a dormant red planet but instead the crust and the core could still be molten hot and active. Just because Mars is not covered in green fields and tree’s doesn’t mean that Mars is a dead planet. With recent indications of water, not just frozen water but also season melting and distribution of water Mars is looking like a perfect first outpost, assuming no-one is there already.

Source: American Geophysical Union