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Did a Mars Orbiter Discover an Ancient Supervolcano?

posted: 05/26/15
by: Danny Clemens
SILOE PATERA
ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

To the untrained eye, this November 2014 photo from the European Space Agency's Mars Express mission appears to show nothing but a smattering of craters on the Red Planet's surface.

Some scientists, however, think that the two nested craters near the image's center (known as Siloe Patera) could be calderas, the collapsed remnants of an ancient supervolcano.

On Earth, a supervolcano eruption produces at least 240 cubic miles (1,000 cubic kilometers) of volcanic material, which is powerful enough to significantly alter climates around the globe. The most recent supervolcano eruption on Earth occurred in April 1815, when Indonesia's Mount Tambora spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that global temperatures dropped by approximately 1 degree Fahrenheit, crippling food production and resulting in famine across the Northern Hemisphere.

According to the ESA, "Supervolcanoes occur when magma is trapped below the surface, leading to a huge built up in pressure. They erupt suddenly in violent explosions and thus do not 'grow' sloping mountains like Olympus Mons."

Thus, a supervolcano eruption results in an irregular imploded crater. The crater recently detected on Mars lacks the hallmarks of impact craters: a central peak, terraced rims and surrounding ejecta blanket.

Click here for the full article from the European Space Agency

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