Thursday, August 04, 2005

562: Evidence for magmatic evolution and diversity on Mars from infrared observations : Nature

Evidence for magmatic evolution and diversity on Mars from infrared observations : Nature:

Compositional mapping of Mars at the 100-metre scale with the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) has revealed a wide diversity of igneous materials. Volcanic evolution produced compositions from low-silica basalts to high-silica dacite in the Syrtis Major caldera. The existence of dacite demonstrates that highly evolved lavas have been produced, at least locally, by magma evolution through fractional crystallization. Olivine basalts are observed on crater floors and in layers exposed in canyon walls up to 4.5 km beneath the surface. This vertical distribution suggests that olivine-rich lavas were emplaced at various times throughout the formation of the upper crust, with their growing inventory suggesting that such ultramafic (picritic) basalts may be relatively common. Quartz-bearing granitoid rocks have also been discovered, demonstrating that extreme differentiation has occurred. These observations show that the martian crust, while dominated by basalt, contains a diversity of igneous materials whose range in composition from picritic basalts to granitoids rivals that found on the Earth.
Understanding the geology of Mars helps predict where water is and was, and where life might be, if it evolved on Mars.

Volcanos also play an important role in some theories of the origins of terrestrial life, and understanding Martian volcanos may help us understand the origin of life here and there, as well as teaching us more about the Earth's formation.