Science | Space
American researchers have identified in Elyseum Planitia a geologically active region 4,000 kilometers in diameter, almost like North America from coast to coast.
Mars is not a geologically dead world, as has been believed up to now. Researchers from the University of Arizona claim, in the latest issue of the journal 'Nature Astronomy', that they have detected in the Elysium Planitia region, where NASA's InSight probe is located, a mantle plume 4,000 kilometers in diameter, almost like North America from coast to coast.
Mantle plumes are large masses of hot, floating rock that rise from the depths of a planet and penetrate its middle layer – the mantle – until they reach the base of its crust, causing earthquakes, fault lines and volcanic eruptions. The Hawaiian island chain, for example, formed when the Pacific plate slowly moved over a mantle plume.
Adrien Broquet and Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, from the University of Arizona, have analyzed data from orbital probes and the InSight laboratory, which has recorded seismic activity on Elysium Planitia since its arrival on the planet in 2018. And they believe that the neighboring world does not has been dead for 3,000 million years, but maintains geological activity.
"Our study presents multiple lines of evidence that reveal the presence of a gigantic active mantle plume on present-day Mars," says Broquet. If the finding is confirmed, Mars would be the third planet in the solar system with volcanic activity, after Earth and Venus. Volcanism on Elysium Planitia, whose most recent episode would date from 53,000 years ago, originates from the Cerberus Trenches, a set of young fissures that extend more than 1,200 kilometers across the Martian surface.