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Space & Astronomy

ESA discovers ancient supervolcano on Mars

May 22, 2015 | Comment icon 15 comments



Image of the caldera taken by Mars Express. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 ESA/DLR/FU Berlin
The Siloe Patera crater on Mars is now believed to be the collapsed center of an enormous volcano.
Last month scientists discovered a huge magma chamber deep below Yellowstone National Park containing up to 116,000 cubic kilometers of molten rock. While the chances of a supervolcanic eruption in the foreseeable future are slim, such events are known to have occurred multiple times throughout our planet's history.

Now scientists at the European Space Agency have found new evidence to suggest that these apocalyptic eruptions might have also taken place on Mars as well.

Measuring 40km across at its widest point and with a maximum depth of 1750km the Siloe Patera crater might not look like much at first glance, but by analyzing photographs captured by the Mars Express orbiter scientists now believe that it was formed by an ancient supervolcanic eruption.

Unlike the typical cone-shape that tends to characterize a volcano, supervolcanoes leave a large hole in the ground because the huge explosive eruption happens so quickly.
While it can be difficult to tell the difference between a caldera and an impact crater, in this case experts believe that a caldera is more likely due to the structure of the crater walls.

A second smaller crater inside the first could also indicate multiple eruptions.

"A number of irregularly shaped craters have been detected in the Arabia Terra region that could represent a family of ancient supervolcano calderas," ESA wrote on their website.

"Siloe Patera is one such example. It is characterized by two depressions with steep-sided walls, collapse features and low topographic relief."

Source: Russia Today | Comments (15)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
I don't claim to be an expert on volcanism but I don't understand how you can so easily dismiss the possibility out of hand. Volcanism was known to be common on Mars in the past. The Tharsis bulge containing the Thrasis Montes (Arsia Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Ascraeus Mons), Elysium and it's volcanoes (Hecates Tholus, Elysium Mons and Albor Tholus) or most famous of all, Olympus Mons are the largest known volcanoes in the solar system. Mars was extraordinarily volcanic in the past. I'm also not an expert on volcanism by any means. But I'm not dismissing it out of hand either. I completely agree ... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
Are you forgetting Olympus Mons, the largest volcano in the solar system? Nope, not forgetting Olympus Mons. It's simply a completely different mode of volcanism than what is being proposed here at Arabia Terra. Which is part of my entire reason for caution here.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
Nope, not forgetting Olympus Mons. It's simply a completely different mode of volcanism than what is being proposed here at Arabia Terra. Which is part of my entire reason for caution here. Just as super volcanoes are a completely different mode of volcanism than, say, Mt. Whitney. Understood though and I am no pro either but it definitely doesn't look like an impact crater.
Comment icon #9 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
Just as super volcanoes are a completely different mode of volcanism than, say, Mt. Whitney. Mt Whitney? That's not volcanism at all, I would say. The Sierra Nevada batholith represents magmatic activity, sure. Understood though and I am no pro either but it definitely doesn't look like an impact crater. In doing my due diligence I pulled up the LPSC abstract on this topic: http://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/lpsc2014/pdf/2271.pdf Figure 1, specifically, is of interest in the geomorphological classification of Siloe Patera.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
Mt Whitney? That's not volcanism at all, I would say. The Sierra Nevada batholith represents magmatic activity, sure. In doing my due diligence I pulled up the LPSC abstract on this topic: http://www.hou.usra....14/pdf/2271.pdf Figure 1, specifically, is of interest in the geomorphological classification of Siloe Patera. I don't know the difference but if you have the time I am willing to listen or would appreciate a civilian learning link. Any help appreciated. The older I get the less I know apparently. I think that is agood thing as long as I can find folks willing to explain things to my i... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by Nnicolette 7 years ago
Even if it looks like a caldera wouldnt there be more evidence in the form of igneous deposits?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
Nope, not forgetting Olympus Mons. It's simply a completely different mode of volcanism than what is being proposed here at Arabia Terra. Which is part of my entire reason for caution here. Okay, I see what you are saying, however we have multiple modes of volcanism on Earth, why do you think it likely there would be only one mode of volcanism on the ancient Mars?
Comment icon #13 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
I don't know the difference but if you have the time I am willing to listen or would appreciate a civilian learning link. Any help appreciated. The older I get the less I know apparently. I think that is agood thing as long as I can find folks willing to explain things to my ignorant self. LOL For the magmatism vs. volcanism? That's a question of where the igneous activity was occurring. Magmatism is igneous activity in the crust--if it reaches the surface its volcanism. Mt. Whitney is part of the Sierra Nevada batholith. A batholith is a large scale body of magma that solidifies below the sur... [More]
Comment icon #14 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 7 years ago
We may still be retaining inner heat well, but let's not forget we are talking about a much earlier period in Martian history. How much heat the two planets retain today would seem to be irrelevant to me. Also the argument that Effusive basaltic volcanism is the major recognized mode of volcanism for Mars would seem to be a circular argument.Unless I have totally misunderstood your point, you argument seems to be of the form: We know that X occurs. Y has been suggested as well. Y is unlikely because we now X occurs. such an argument would seem to preclude any new discoveries on the basis of it... [More]
Comment icon #15 Posted by socrates.junior 7 years ago
We may still be retaining inner heat well, but let's not forget we are talking about a much earlier period in Martian history. How much heat the two planets retain today would seem to be irrelevant to me. True. Good point. Also the argument would seem to be a circular argument.Unless I have totally misunderstood your point, you argument seems to be of the form: We know that X occurs. Y has been suggested as well. Y is unlikely because we now X occurs. such an argument would seem to preclude any new discoveries on the basis of it not being that same as that we already know. I think you're misun... [More]


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