Mars’ mantle has a complicated history

Mars Planet, Mars, Red Planet

We may have garnered a lot of understanding about Mars over the years through various space probes as well as landers, but it turns out that scientists are still trying to figure out a lot of things about the Red Planet including its mantle.

According to a new study by researchers at Louisiana State University (LSU), US, Mars may have had a complicated history as far as its mantle is concerned. Scientists studied geochemical changes over time in the lava flows of a major volcanic province called Elysium on the red planet to determine that Red Planet’s mantle could have had a very different history than that of Earth’s mantle. The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers say they found unusual chemistry of lava flows around the volcanic province Elysium – a giant volcanic complex on the Red Plant – which are said to be consistent with primary magmatic processes.

Scientists say that most of the volcanic features they have observed are likely having their origins to three to four billion years ago. However, there are some patches of lava flows on Elysium that scientists say are much much younger at just three to four million years old. The study shows that the composition of volcanoes on Mars may evolve over their eruptive history.

Earlier studies have found that particular regions of Elysium and the surrounding shallow subsurface of Mars are geochemically anomalous, strange even relative to other volcanic regions on Mars. Researchers started to piece together the geologic history of Elysium, an expansive volcanic region on Mars characterised by strange chemistry. They sought to uncover why some of Elysium’s lava flows are so geochemically unusual, or why they have such low levels of thorium and potassium.

This leads scientists to believe that perhaps the mantle has changed over time and this means that there is a possibility that more recent volcanic eruption flows differ chemically from older ones.

Understanding the evolutionary history of Mars’ mantle could help researchers gain a better understanding of what kinds of valuable ores and other materials could be found in the crust, as well as whether volcanic hazards could unexpectedly threaten human missions to Mars in the near future.

Mars’ mantle likely has a very different history than Earth’s mantle because the plate tectonics on Earth are absent on Mars as far as researchers know. The history of the bulk interior of the red planet also remains a mystery.