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Mars Had Volcanoes For At Least Two Billion Years

Paradoxes emerge from Martian volcanoes that we’re only just beginning to understand.

Scientists now believe that Mars had at least 2 billion years worth of volcanic activity, making it home to the oldest known volcanoes in the solar system.

The finding is based on a thorough study of a Martian meteorite found in Algeria in 2012. Known as Northwest Africa 7635 (NWA 7635), it was eventually found to be composed of shergottite, a known Martian volcanic element.

Shergottite has always been difficult to age, given that it crystallized 180 million years ago. This challenge is known as the “shergottite age paradox” and has caused some to speculate that all the shergottite that has ever landed on Earth can be traced back to one core event, when something slammed into the Red Planet.

“We see that they came from a similar volcanic source,” says Tom Lapen, a geology professor at the University of Houston who lead the paper on NWA 7635. “Given that they also have the same ejection time, we can conclude that these come from the same location on Mars.”

Lapen’s analysis of NWA 7635 shows that while it’s from the same region as the rest of shergottite, it’s vastly older. Other analyzed meteorites clock in at 327 to 600 million years old, while 7635 was formed 2.4 billion years ago.

We’re learning more and more about the early days of Mars because of research like Lapen’s, which is aided massively by NASA’s Curiosity rover that has recently trying to find out what happened to Martian mud.

Source: University of Houston