Press Release

Volcanoes Still Active on Mars? New Evidence for Ongoing Volcanism and Water Release

By SpaceRef Editor
November 8, 2001
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In their search for water and possible life on Mars, scientists are
turning to new data generated by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) images
and Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) topography from the Mars Global
Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft.

The Elysium and Amazonis Planitia regions of Mars have come under
particularly intensive study because of their recently proposed young
ages (10-100 million years ago or less). Several different recent
studies have respectively shown that: some of the volcanic flows were
likely emplaced over ice-rich ground; at least one flow originated from
the long rift-type vents of the Cerberus Fossae; and recent floods also
originated from the vent system, perhaps depositing water in the shallow
subsurface for later volcanic flows to interact with.

But the capstone of this work is the discovery by NASA/Goddard Earth
Science and Technology Center scientist Susan Sakimoto and colleagues
that the new data reveals regionally extensive lava eruptions from
the same vent system as the water. While earlier data hints at this
conclusion, Sakimoto’s evidence provides the strongest support yet that
these volcanic and hydrologic events indeed are both young and related
in origins, and could perhaps still occur on Mars in the future.

Sakimoto will present these findings on Thursday, November 8, at the
Geological Society of America’s annual meeting in Boston.

“Based on the convergence of fluvial and volcanic features in the
topography, evidence for their interaction, their interlinked deposits,
flow model results of the eruption rates, and the episodic nature of
the eruption style and their youth, it is clear to us that the potential
for continuing eruptions in the NEXT several tens of million of years
ought to be good,” Sakimoto said. “These are absolutely beautiful
examples of plains volcanism! The ramifications include a potential
for ongoing thermal and water sources for sustaining or starting an
environment compatible with life into recent Martian geologic time (and
possibly into the present) and enhanced understanding of the plains-
style eruption type in a slightly different planetary environment.”

CONTACT INFORMATION

During the GSA Annual Meeting, November 4-8, contact Ann Cairns or
Christa Stratton at the GSA Newsroom in the Hynes Convention Center,
Boston, Massachusetts, for assistance and to arrange for interviews:
(617) 954-3214.

The abstract for this presentation is available at:
http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2001AM/finalprogram/abstract_25349.htm

Post-meeting contact information:

Susan E.H. Sakimoto,

Code 921, Geodynamics Branch

UMBC, Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Greenbelt MD 20771 USA

Phone: 301-614-6470

Fax: 301-614-6522

E-mail: [email protected]

Ann Cairns

Director of Communications

Geological Society of America

Phone: 303-357-1056

Fax: 303-357-1074

E-mail: [email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.