Young volcanoes of Mars could support life
Once Mars was much more interesting. Today there rampaging dust storms, and in some places flowing streams of liquid salt water, but billions of years ago the planet boasted gigantic volcanoes, system of canyons and river valleys. Not so long ago, scientists have found on Mars volcanoes that were formed very recently, in geological terms. What is remarkable, perhaps, they had exactly suitable for the prosperity of microbial life conditions.
Mars Olympus Mons - the largest volcano in the solar system - in height is 22 kilometers, and its base of more than 500 kilometers in diameter. She began to grow about 3 billion years ago, but some lava flows on its upper slopes can be aged not more than 2 million years, judging by the lack of overlapping impact craters. Craters, which are formed due to the impact of an asteroid, show how the old can be a surface of the body in our solar system - the more craters, the older the surface. However, fresh lava from the volcano can cover old craters, resetting the clock.
This was the case with Mount Olympus and several of its neighbors. It is unlikely that they died out completely. Perhaps they could even squeeze the lava in the future, although it will have to wait a few million years.
In search of small volcanoes
Whether volcanoes are formed on Mars, as before? Where are the young, have appeared recently? Previously, scientists noticed clusters of various small and obviously very young, "cones" - symmetrical hills with craters on top - but their origin has been controversial. They could really be places of volcanic eruptions, but at the same time and "mud volcanoes" formed the release of dirt out of the ground, or "rootless cones" formed by lava explosions, falling on wet or icy ground.
Investigation of the Czech-German-American group of researchers led by Peter Broz submitted new compelling evidence that at least some of them are actually volcanoes. Broz and his team studied the cones Coprates Chasma, the deepest part of the canyon system of Mars Valles Marynerys. This is far from the main volcanic province of Mars, and suggests that the magma erupted from the depths through the ancient canyons faults in the system.
Scientists firmly believe that this is true volcanic cones, like ordinary volcanoes on Earth, known as the cinder cone and the cone of tuff. They confirm it in thin layers that are visible on the inner wall of the crater on the HiRISE images, and other facts. Image resolution is enough to see that the cone is composed of layers in the same way as the tuff cone in the world.
The analysis showed that the area surrounding the craters age of 200-400 million years - about the time the earth roamed giant amphibians and the first dinosaurs.
The cones were to be built by explosive eruptions of lava clots, ranging in size from a pea to a brick layering gradually until it reached its final height. The surface of each cone should be "reinforced" because clots, reaching land, were hot enough to fuse and protect it. This may explain their fresh appearance, in contrast to the mud volcanoes to be more vulnerable to erosion.
The conclusions of scientists are interesting for many reasons. So young volcanism of Mars suggests that the planet has volcanic processes occur - and still form volcanoes.
So far, a team of scientists has received information about the composition of only one of the cones using CRISM instrument on MRO. This revealed the presence of a mineral opaline silica and mineral sulfates, who say that the hot stones, before or after the eruption, interacted with the Martian groundwater.
If so, even for a short period each volcano could have formed a mixture of water, heat and chemical energy to sustain microbial life like the one that inhabits hot springs on Earth. Given that the cones in this study, at least 200 million years, they are unlikely to support life today, but it would be a good place to look for fossilized microbes with minimal risk of contamination of the active ecosystem.