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Scientists have discovered a giant volcano on Mars

Currently referred to as ‘Noctis volcano’, scientists say the deeply eroded volcano has been hiding in plain sight on Mars for decades

The discovery is important as it reveals a new location to examine Mars’ geologic evolution through time,
The discovery is important as it reveals a new location to examine Mars’ geologic evolution through time, (Pexels)

Scientists have discovered a giant volcano that has been hiding near Mars’ equator in plain sight for decades. The new findings, presented at the 55th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference held in The Woodlands, Texas, US, also revealed a possible sheet of buried glacier ice in the eastern part of Mars’ Tharsis volcanic province.

Currently referred to as “Noctis volcano”, the deeply eroded volcano structure reaches 29,600 feet in elevation and spans 450 kilometres in width. According to the researchers, the complex modification history indicates that it has been active for a very long time. They also found a thin, recent volcanic deposit in the southeastern part. Researchers believe that they are likely to find glacier ice under it.

Also read: Mars once had life-supporting climate: Nasa

This discovery is important as it reveals a new location to examine Mars’ geologic evolution through time, and search for life, a press statement explains. “We were examining the geology of an area where we had found the remains of a glacier last year when we realized we were inside a huge and deeply eroded volcano,” lead author Pascal Le adds in the statement.

However, the researchers are not too surprised by the discovery as this area of Mars is known to have a wide variety of hydrated minerals spanning a long stretch of Martian history, they said in the statement. “A volcanic setting for these minerals had long been suspected,” co-author Sourabh Shubham added.

According to the study, the Noctis volcano has a long and complex history of modification, which could be because of a combination of fracturing, thermal erosion, and glacial erosion. The researchers have said that the volcano has experienced eruptions even in recent times but it is unknown if it is still active and might erupt again.

In the statement, the researchers explained that as the volcano is an ancient one, different parts of its interior can be dated to study Mars’ evolution through time. Since it has also a long history of heat interacting with water and ice, it could be a good subject for astrobiology and the search for signs of life. They also feel it could be a prime site for robotic and human exploration in the future.

Along with the volcano, the team also found a large, 5,000 sq km area of volcanic deposits within the volcano’s perimeter with a large number of low, rounded and elongated, blister-like mounds, the statement adds.

Also read: 5 things to know about Nasa's Ingenuity Mars helicopter

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