Navigation Links
Mountain on Mars may answer big question
Date:3/4/2009

The Martian volcano Olympus Mons is about three times the height of Mount Everest, but it's the small details that Rice University professors Patrick McGovern and Julia Morgan are looking at in thinking about whether the Red Planet ever had or still supports life.

Using a computer modeling system to figure out how Olympus Mons came to be, McGovern and Morgan reached the surprising conclusion that pockets of ancient water may still be trapped under the mountain. Their research is published in February's issue of the journal Geology.

The scientists explained that their finding is more implication than revelation. "What we were analyzing was the structure of Olympus Mons, why it's shaped the way it is," said McGovern, an adjunct assistant professor of Earth science and staff scientist at the NASA-affiliated Lunar and Planetary Institute. "What we found has implications for life but implications are what go at the end of a paper."

Co-author Morgan is an associate professor of Earth science.

In modeling the formation of Olympus Mons with an algorithm known as particle dynamics simulation, McGovern and Morgan determined that only the presence of ancient clay sediments could account for the volcano's asymmetric shape. The presence of sediment indicates water was or is involved.

Olympus Mons is tall, standing almost 15 miles high, and slopes gently from the foothills to the caldera, a distance of more than 150 miles. That shallow slope is a clue to what lies beneath, said the researchers. They suspect if they were able to stand on the northwest side of Olympus Mons and start digging, they'd eventually find clay sediment deposited there billions of years ago, before the mountain was even a molehill.

The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has in recent years found abundant evidence of clay on Mars. This supports a previous theory that where Olympus Mons now stands, a layer of sediment once rested that may have been hundreds of meters thick.

Morgan and McGovern show in their computer models that volcanic material was able to spread to Olympus-sized proportions because of the clay's friction-reducing effect, a phenomenon also seen at volcanoes in Hawaii.

What may be trapped underneath is of great interest, said the researchers. Fluids embedded in an impermeable, pressurized layer of clay sediment would allow the kind of slipping motion that would account for Olympus Mons' spread-out northeast flank and they may still be there.

Thanks to NASA's Phoenix lander, which scratched through the surface to find ice underneath the red dust last year, scientists now know there's water on Mars. So Morgan and McGovern feel it's reasonable to suspect water may be trapped in pores in the sediment underneath the mountain.

"This deep reservoir, warmed by geothermal gradients and magmatic heat and protected from adverse surface conditions, would be a favored environment for the development and maintenance of thermophilic organisms," they wrote. This brings to mind the primal life forms found deep in Earth's oceans, thriving near geothermal vents.

Finding a source of heat will be a challenge, they admitted. "We'd love to have the answer to that question," said McGovern, noting evidence of methane on Mars is considered by some to be another marker for life. "Spacecraft up there have the capability to detect a thermal anomaly, like a magma flow or a volcano, and they haven't.

"What we need is 'ground truth' something reporting from the surface saying, 'Hey, there's a Marsquake,' or 'Hey, there's unusual emissions of gas.' Ultimately, we'd like to see a series of seismic stations so we can see what's moving around the planet."


'/>"/>

Contact: David Ruth
druth@rice.edu
713-348-6327
Rice University
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Scientists tackle mystery mountain illness
2. Mountain pine beetle: Canadas new government delivers
3. Mountain summits in the Alps becoming increasingly similar
4. Mysterious mountain dino may be a new species
5. Colorado Rocky Mountain Region: A Geological Cornucopia
6. International experts collect alpine fungi in Beartooth Mountains of Montana
7. White Mountain Research Station to host climate change conference
8. Tropical rainforest and mountain species may be threatened by global warming
9. Escherichia coli bacteria transferring between humans and mountain gorillas
10. Mountain caribous ancient ancestry revealed
11. Fungus genome yielding answers to protect grains, people and animals
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Mountain on Mars may answer big question
(Date:6/22/2016)... ANGELES , June 22, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... identity management and verification solutions, has partnered ... edge software solutions for Visitor Management, Self-Service ... provides products that add functional enhancements ... partnership provides corporations and venues with an ...
(Date:6/20/2016)... 2016 Securus Technologies, a leading provider ... public safety, investigation, corrections and monitoring announced that ... has secured the final acceptance by all three ... Access Systems (MAS) installed. Furthermore, Securus will have ... installed by October, 2016. MAS distinguishes between legitimate ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... innovation leader in attendance control systems is proud to announce the introduction of fingerprint ... sure the right employees are actually signing in, and to even control the opening ... ... ... Photo ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital has signed ... to serve as their official health care provider. ... will provide sponsorship support, athletic training services, and ... volunteers, athletes and families. "We are ... and to bring Houston Methodist quality services and ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... Supplyframe, the Industry Network ... Supplyframe Design Lab . Located in Pasadena, Calif., the Design Lab’s mission is ... projects are designed, built and brought to market. , The Design Lab is ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 23, 2016 Andrew ... http://doi.org/10.17925/OHR.2016.12.01.22 Published recently in ... journal from touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , ... cancer care is placing an increasing burden on ... biologic therapies. With the patents on many biologics ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... 22, 2016  Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) ... QB3@953 life sciences incubator to accelerate the development ... laboratory space at QB3@953 was created to help high-potential ... for many early stage organizations - access to laboratory ... Amgen launched two "Amgen Golden Ticket" awards, providing each ...
Breaking Biology Technology: