Mars was born with its fair share of volcanoes just like its cosmic ‘next-door’ neighbor Earth. In fact, the Red Planet is home to some pretty huge volcanoes including the largest volcano in the entire Solar System, Olympus Mons.
However, scientists are increasingly finding evidence that size is not the sole criteria that make many of the volcanoes on Mars different from those on Earth. Based on the data gathered from the past several years now, astrogeologists are now convinced that many of the Martian volcanoes erupt for a much longer duration compared to Earth volcanoes.
A rather unusual meteorite found in Algeria in 2012 helped scientists draw this conclusion. Weighing approximately 6.9-ounce, this meteorite helped an international team of researchers figure out that in its roughly 4.5 billion year history, a single volcano on Mars erupted non-stop for over 2 billion years.
“Between Antarctica and other deserts we add more than 1,000 meteorites per year, but only a few of those are interesting, including those originating from Mars and the moon,” said Marc Caffee, professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University and a member of the research team.
“The standard ones are sent to the Smithsonian, but the unusual ones are sent to NASA and the community of scientists is informed in case they want to request samples.”
Whether or not the meteorite came from Olympus Mons remains unknown, although scientists are confident that they will soon be able to determine its origin.
“What this means is that for 2 billion years there’s been sort of a steady plume of magma in one location on the surface of Mars,” Caffee said.
“We don’t have anything like that on Earth, where something is that stable for 2 billion years at a specific location.”
Volcanoes on Mars can grow so enormous because unlike Earth, there is no plate tectonic on the Red Planet.