Science

Water on Mars formed earlier than expected supported by volcanic eruptions

Water on Mars formed earlier than expected supported by volcanic eruptions

After countless research and probes launched by various space agencies to study the red planet, we now know that there was liquid water on the planet in the past. Scientists were able to make an estimate based on their researches too, however, the latest study titled ‘Timing of Oceans on Mars from Shoreline Deformation’ states that the liquid water oceans on the red planet must have formed way earlier than thought and it must have been shallower than earlier believed. It further states Martian volcano system as the main supporter of the ocean system on the planet.

The study concluded by coauthor Michael Manga, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and his team proposed a model that explains the formation of oceans on the Mars. According to the assumptions, the oceans must have formed before or at the time of emplacement of Mars’s largest volcanic feature, Tharsis, that shifts the estimates that ocean was formed after the formation of Tharsis. According to Manga, volcanoes are crucial in providing the right condition for Mars to be wet. The model states that Tharsis was formed quickly and early than it was estimated before and then, oceans were formed. The study predates the formation of oceans on Mars to accompany the formation of Tharsis.

Per the study, a series of volcanic eruptions gave rise to accumulation of gases in the atmosphere which played the role of the greenhouse gases. This allowed the planet to stay warm and therefore, allowed the liquid water to exist on its surface. Moreover, the lava outpourings due to eruptions formed channels for the water trapped in the underground to come up at the surface and fill up the Northern Plains of Mars.

The study also paid keen attention towards the irregularity of shoreline around the oceans assumed to be on the Mars i.e. Arabia and Deuteronilus. The paper tries to explain the formation of irregularity in the shoreline due to the formation of Tharsis. The study assumed that Arabia, the first ocean on Mars existed around 4 billion years ago during the first 20% of Tharsis growth which explains how the shoreline must have developed irregularity. It is because of the growing volcano that put stress on the adjoining land making its shoreline deformed over time.

The same feature can be seen at another ocean called Deuteronilus which is expected to have formed during the last 17% of the growth of Tharsis i.e. around 3.6 billion years ago that gave rise to its irregular shoreline. Robert Citron, a graduate student at the University of California and the first author of the paper published in the journal Nature states that the irregular shoreline must have formed by the large body of liquid water that came into existence before and during the Tharsis came into existence and not afterward as it was known earlier.

Tharsis, the largest volcanic system on Mars spans over 5,000 kilometers and houses some of the largest volcanoes in our entire solar system. Its massive mass creates a bulge on the opposite side of the planet and puts a depression in between making it one of the largest volcanic feature on Mars and in the solar system. The northern plains today could hold up twice the amount of water that it could possibly hold 4 years ago.

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