Plate tectonics found on Mars

For years, scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a scientist from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA) has discovered that the geological phenomenon also exists on Mars.

Aug 13th, 2012
Plate tectonics found on Mars
Plate tectonics found on Mars

For years, scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a scientist from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, USA) has discovered that the geological phenomenon -- which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface -- also exists on Mars.

UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences An Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He analyzed about 100 satellite images -- approximately a dozen revealed the existence of plate tectonics.

Yin had previously conducted geologic research in the Himalayas and Tibet, where two of the Earth's seven major plates divide, and when he studied the satellite images from Mars, many of the features looked very much like those fault systems as well as ones in California.

For example, he saw a very smooth, flat side of a canyon wall, which can be generated only by a fault, and a steep cliff, comparable to cliffs in California's Death Valley, which also are generated by a fault.

"You don't see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars," says Yin.

The image above shows a view of central segment of Mars' Valles Marineris, in which an older circular basin created by an impact is offset for about 93 miles (150 kilometers) by a fault.

More information can be found here.

-- Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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