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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mars Volcanoes May Be Active

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(Newindpress.com) Images of the Martian landscape as captured by Europe's Mars Express probe has revealed that the fourth planet of the Solar System is very much geologically active.

Mars Express scientist Gerhard Neukum from Berlin University, while presenting the results of the probe at the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Cambridge, said that the volcanoes erupted very recently, adding that the site could have ongoing volcanism.

This news may be a mixed blessing for such organizations like 4 Frontiers as an active geological surface means that a colony could potentially use geo-thermal energy as a heating source, as sunlight on Mars is not particularly all that warming. Such activity should also make it easier to locate water (that is if it doesn't all evaporate due to the low pressure), although living next to a volcano probably isn't all that comforting.

Dr Neukum, who acted as the principal investigator for the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on Mars Express, which took the images in which the cones were discovered, said that there might be around 50-100 volcanic cones covering a flank of the North Pole about one million square kilometres in area.

He said that the cones were between 300-600 metres tall. He said that in addition to the North Pole, other regions with recent - and possibly ongoing - activity on Mars included the parts of Tharsis - home to the volcano Olympus Mons - parts of Elysium and the so-called highland-lowland boundary.

Although humanity may not appear on the Martian surface for another 20 years, Martian colonists will probably find themselves making a home on one of these shield volcanoes, if not living near the base of these volcanic giants. It is likely that such findings will encourage settlements to be established in the north pole (as there is plenty of snow) making them prime real estate upon the red planet.

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By Darnell Clayton • 2:20 PM • Email Post • •


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