Over 100 Million Years Ago, Olympus Mons Had a Massive Landslide

Whereas the floor of Mars appears to be like comparatively unchanging now, it wasn’t all the time so. The tallest mountain within the Photo voltaic System is Olympus Mons, a large protect volcano on Mars that reaches 21.9 km (13.6 miles) excessive, 2.5 occasions larger than Mount Everest right here on Earth. Historic lava flows encompass the volcanic caldera, proof of an lively time.

New photos from ESA’s Mars Categorical present how these lava flows created extraordinarily sharp cliffs, as excessive as 7 km (4.3 miles) in some areas, which out of the blue collapsed in mind-boggling landslides. Considered one of these landslides occurred a number of 100 million years in the past when a piece of the volcano broke off and unfold throughout the encircling plains. If we might look again in time and see because it occurred, it was definitely a really dramatic and turbulent epoch on Mars.

The photographs, from Mars Categorical’ Excessive Decision Stereo Digicam (HRSC), present a crumpled characteristic named Lycus Sulci, on the sides of the aureole; the volcano itself is situated out of body to the underside left within the picture above — (south-east), many tons of of km away, however seen within the photos beneath.

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Combining the brand new photos with knowledge with topographical knowledge from NASA’s Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter helps inform the traditional story of how Olympus Mons’s decrease flanks catastrophically collapsed a number of 100 million years in the past. ESA scientists say that giant quantities of lava as soon as flowed down the volcano, triggering landslides that tumbled down its flanks to fulfill bedrock – on this case, bedrock containing ice and water.

This picture of exhibits the wrinkled environment of Olympus Mons and a characteristic named Lycus Sulci, on the raised aureole surrounding the volcano. Credit score: NASA/MGS/MOLA Science Crew

The steaming scorching lava induced the ice to soften and develop into unstable; consequently, the rocky rim of Olympus Mons broke off and partially slid away. This collapse got here within the type of big rockfalls and landslides, which slipped downwards and unfold broadly throughout the encircling plains. Because the landslides traveled throughout the panorama, they crumpled and pulled aside, created a wrinkly-looking floor. Later, fierce Martian winds whipped throughout the hardened lava flows and sculpted them into the softened wrinkles we see right now in Lycus Sulci.

Olympus Mons, captured by the ESA’s Mars Categorical mission from orbit. Credit score: ESA/DLR/FUBerlin/AndreaLuck

Scientists additionally see these options on Earth, though not as gigantic and widespread as on Mars. Comparable however smaller landslides might be seen across the volcanic islands of Hawaii and the Canary Islands, which have seen giant rockfalls prior to now.

Mars Categorical has been sending us dramatic photos of Mars since 2003. Along with the pictures, it additionally maps minerals, identifies the composition and circulation of its tenuous environment, and explores how varied phenomena work together within the Martian setting.

Supply: ESA


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