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Planetary Science: Active Mantle Plumes on Mars | Natural Astronomy | Nature’s portfolio

Research press release


natural astronomy

December 6, 2022

Planetology: An active mantle plume on Mars

Underneath the northern plains of Mars, there is an active mantle plume about 4,000 km in diameter that may be pushing the crust up and transporting hot magma to the surface, according to the paper.natural astronomyThis mantle plume is located in the Elysium Plain and may explain volcanic and seismic activity in this region.


Mars is generally considered a geologically inactive world due to the lack of evidence of current tectonics or volcanic eruptions, especially compared to Earth. But recently, NASA’s Insight rover, which has been active on Mars since 2018, detected low-level but persistent seismic activity that could originate from a recently formed system called Cerberus Fossa. Cerberus Fossa is also the site of the most recent volcanic activity on Mars, 53,000 years ago.


Adrien Broquet and Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna analyze the topography, gravity and geology of Elysium Planitia where InSight and Cerberus Fossa are located. Using geophysical models, they found evidence that the entire region sits atop a mantle plume of hot material that is 95 to 285 K warmer than its surroundings. The center of this column is Cerberus Fossa. As on Earth, the presence of active plumes causes localized and sustained geological activity, including marsquakes detected by InSight, causing the crust beneath Cerberus Fossa to slowly open.


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These results indicate that Mars may be the third celestial body in the inner solar system, after Earth and Venus, to have a currently active mantle plume.

doi: 10.1038/s41550-022-01836-3

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