TechHidden Giant: Ancient Volcano Discovered on Mars May Hold Life Clues

Hidden Giant: Ancient Volcano Discovered on Mars May Hold Life Clues

Images source: © Wikimedia Commons

4:11 PM EDT, March 18, 2024

Near a region known as Noctis Labyrinthus (Labyrinth of the Night) on Mars, scientists have discovered evidence of a massive, ancient volcano, Science Alert reports. This hidden volcano, buried under a layer of ice, could potentially hold traces of life, according to researchers.

A team led by Pascal Lee from the SETI Institute fortuitously stumbled upon this concealed Martian volcano. They were investigating an area covered by an ancient glacier and realized they were actually examining a gigantic volcano. It's worth noting that this region had been previously photographed many times, but the eroded volcano within had remained unnoticed for years.

A hidden volcano discovered on Mars

"In a sense, this large volcano has been the long-sought 'smoking gun'," says Sourabh Shubham from SETI, who emphasizes the size of the discovery and the possibility that the volcano was active until not so long ago. The peak of the object towers over 29,527 feet, while its base stretches across approximately 155 miles. This newly discovered volcano is the seventh largest known object on Mars, comparable to Earth's tallest dormant volcano, Ojos del Salado in the Central Andes, which stands 22,615 feet tall, as noted by Science Alert.

The significance of finding this Martian volcano extends beyond geological interests. It promises new avenues for research, aiming to explore whether life could have originated in this locale. "This discovery is significant because it introduces an exciting new site for studying the geologic evolution of Mars, searching for life, and eventually supporting research with robots and humans," states the observation report published on the SETI website.

Volcano discovered on Mars
Volcano discovered on Mars© SETI

The researchers are delving into the volcano's history with numerous questions. They are curious about the duration of its activity and whether it is still active, which is pivotal in assessing the potential for life to have developed in its vicinity. The premise is that if the Martian volcano was active over a long period, the combination of heat and water (from the ice cover) could have created ideal conditions for sustaining life.

Initial estimates suggest that the volcano was active from ancient times until relatively recently, attributed to its "gigantic size and complex history," the research team posits. Thus, further investigation of this newly discovered yet ancient region could enhance our understanding of Mars's history and its potential to harbor life.

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