The surface of ancient Mars may have been rocked repeatedly by giant supervolcanoes, which unleashed colossal and explosive eruptions that forever changed the face of the Red Planet, scientists say.
By examining an extremely old part of Mars called the Arabia Terra region, scientists have found what could be the remnants of a supervolcano -- the unofficial way to describe a huge, explosive volcano that produces more than about 240 cubic miles (1,000 cubic kilometers) of volcanic material when it erupts.
Dubbed the Eden Patera, the irregularly shaped crater has the hallmarks of an ancient supervolcano, a previously undocumented geological feature on Mars, said Joseph Michalski, a Mars researcher at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., and London's Natural History Museum.
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"What we found is a new kind of volcanic complex which looks different from the other kinds of volcanoes that we know to exist on Mars," Michalski, the lead author of a new study being published in Nature this week, told SPACE.com. "We don't know the exact ages of these, but we think they're quite ancient. We think they occurred during the first billion years of the planet's history."