Chemistry on Mars reveals cooling rate

Apr 07, 2011 by Bob Yirka report
Chemistry on Mars reveals cooling rate
© 2011 David Baratoux

(PhysOrg.com) -- French researchers from the University of Toulouse have published a paper in Nature, that describes how they used data from NASA's Mars Odyssey (currently orbiting the planet) to ascertain the amount of cooling that Mars has undergone over billions of years. Their work is part of an ongoing international process to reconstruct the geologic history of the Red Planet.

By studying thorium, silicon and iron concentrations in the (based on the data collected from onboard the Odyssey) David Baratoux, Michael Toplis and their colleagues have been able to deduce that has cooled by about 80°C (176°F) over the past two or three billion years, which some have noted is slower than that for Earth.

The researchers focused on twelve different volcanic plains on the Martian surface, each of a different age. Thorium, a radioactive element was chosen as one of the study agents due to the fact that when it’s heated it doesn’t get locked in with other elements, which makes it a good source of information for mantle temperatures when it is transported to the surface via volcanic activity (plus the fact that it continually emits gamma rays). Studying in the volcanic soil, on the other hand, helps to gauge melting depth; and iron can be used to help figure out how accurate the first two are.

The researchers were able to come to these conclusions because it is already well understood that the composition of magma pushed to the surface through melting of mantle rocks (creating volcanoes) is controlled by depth, temperature and pressure exerted before being forced to the surface. With data from the GRS they were able to measure the composition percentages of the studied elements and the degree of variation between them, and also to calculate the degree of melting; to which they were able to apply mathematical modeling that gave them the pace of cooling.

In addition to coming up with a reasonable estimate of planet cooling, the team also came up with evidence to suggest that Mar’s lithosphere is thickening.

By studying changing temperature patterns on Mars, and other planets, researchers hope to gain new insights into how our own planet might behave as the future unfolds.

Explore further: SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

More information: David Baratoux et al., Thermal history of Mars inferred from orbital geochemistry of volcanic provinces, Nature (2011) doi:10.1038/nature09903

Related Stories

Mercury's shifting, rolling past

Mar 17, 2008

Patterns of scalloped-edged cliffs or lobate scarps on Mercury’s surface are thrust faults that are consistent with the planet shrinking and cooling with time. However, compression occurred in the planet’s early history ...

Device reveals more about Mars' atmosphere

Oct 12, 2010

Instruments designed by a UT Dallas professor to measure atmospheric components on the surface of Mars have uncovered important clues about the planet’s atmosphere and climate history.

Mapping Venus: Extreme makeover or plate tectonics?

Mar 22, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- Venus and Earth have long been thought of as sister planets. Given its similar size and proximity to Earth in the inner Solar System, Venus might seem like a promising candidate for having ...

Mercury's shifting, rolling past

Mar 27, 2008

Patterns of scalloped-edged cliffs or lobate scarps on Mercury's surface are thrust faults that are consistent with the planet shrinking and cooling with time. However, compression occurred in the planet's ...

Recommended for you

SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight

2 hours ago

A SpaceX rocket exploded in midair during a test flight, though no one was injured, as the company seeks to develop a spacecraft that can return to Earth and be used again.

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

20 hours ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

20 hours ago

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

21 hours ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Voyager map details Neptune's strange moon Triton

22 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" ...

User comments : 0