Previous research has hinted at volcanic eruptions on Mars 2.5 million years ago. But a new paper suggests an eruption occurred as recently as 53,000 years ago in a region called Cerberus Fossae, which would be the youngest known volcanic eruption on Mars. That drives home the prospect that beneath its rusty surface pocked with gigantic volcanoes that have gone silent, some volcanism still erupts to the surface at rare intervals. “If this deposit is of volcanic origin then the Cerberus Fossae region may not be extinct and Mars may still be volcanically active today,” scientists at the University of Arizona and Smithsonian Institution, write in their paper — which was posted online ahead of peer review and has been submitted to the journal Icarus…
If it holds up to scrutiny, the discovery would have large implications for Mars. In geological terms, 53,000 years is the blink of an eye, suggesting Mars might well still be volcanically active now. It could also have big implications for the search for life on Mars. Such volcanic activity could melt subsurface ice, providing a potential habitable environment for living things.
“To have life, you need energy, carbon, water and nutrients,” said Steven Anderson, an earth sciences professor at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, who was not involved in the paper. “And a volcanic system provides all of those.”
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