An isolated hill in the Medusae Fossae Formation. The effect of wind erosion on this hill is clear by its streamlined form. Credit: High Resolution Stereo Camera/European Space Agency.
The cause of a mysterious rock on Mars that NASA is considered to be “an enigmatic pile of eroding sediments” and UFO hunters believe an alien spacecraft was probably caused by volcanic activity on the planet billions of years ago, researchers say.
The Medusae Fossae Formation (MFF) was first observed in the 1960s by the space probe Mariner, but NASA scientists can’t explain what the cause is. Now, a group of researchers have published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research that suggests that it was formed by volcanic eruptions over 3 billion years ago.
“This is a huge deposit, not only on a Mars-scale, but also in terms of the solar system, because we do not know of any other landfill that is so,” said Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, in a statement.
(Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University)
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The scale of the Medusae Fossae Formation is huge, about a fifth of the size of the U.S. It is also 100 times more mass than the largest explosive volcanic deposit on Earth, making it the largest known explosive volcanic deposit in the solar system.
The study’s abstract notes that the MFF is a “relatively porous unit,” and found its origin is uncertain, “the various processes, including volcanic, eolian, and ice‐related mechanisms have been proposed in the formation.”
The researchers were able to use data from different Mars orbiter spacecraft for the measurement of the Medusae Fossae density for the first time, and calls its porous nature (it is about two-thirds as dense as the rest of the Martian crust), and a theory that it was caused by the “explosive volcanic eruptions.”
“The eruptions that the guarantor may have spewed enormous amounts of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere of Mars and ejected enough water to cover Mars in a global ocean more than 9 centimetres (4 inches) thick,” Ojha said.
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Because of the high levels of carbon dioxide and water which are released by the MFF, the MFF “significantly contributed to the Martian atmosphere and the hydrosphere,” the study of the abstract added.
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