‘Plate Tectonics’ Discovered on Mars–Found Nowhere Else Beyond Earth in Solar System

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For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet’s surface, also exists on Mars.

“Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth,” said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the sole author of the new research.

Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from a NASA spacecraft known as THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) 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 were revealing of plate tectonics.

Yin has conducted geologic research in the Himalayas and Tibet, where two of the Earth’s seven major plates divide.* “When I studied the satellite images from Mars, many of the features looked very much like fault systems I have seen in the Himalayas and Tibet, and in California as well, including the geomorphology,” said Yin, a planetary geologist.

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. Mars has a linear volcanic zone, which Yin said is a typical product of plate tectonics.

“You don’t see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars,” said Yin, whose research is featured as the cover story in the August issue of the journal Lithosphere.

Written By: The Daily Galaxy
continue to source article at dailygalaxy.com

15 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from a NASA spacecraft known as THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) 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 were revealing of plate tectonics.

    If there is still some crustal movement, it should be recorded over time by surveying satellites.

    The surface of Mars contains the longest and deepest system of canyons in our solar system, known as Valles Marineris (image at top and bottom of the page–Latin for Mariner Valleys and named for the Mariner 9 Mars orbiter of 1971, which discovered it). It
    is nearly 2,500 miles long — about nine times longer than the Earth’s Grand Canyon. Scientists have wondered for four decades how it formed.
    Was it a big crack in Mars’ shell that opened up?

    Earth’s Grand Canyon, was created by the cutting into the rising rock strata by the Colorado River.

    “Two plate” tectonics looks doubtful as a planetary system.  If Mars had plate movement, it must have been at a very early stage of its formation, because it’s volcanoes show that the crust was locked in position over the hot spots which fed them.

    Did the movement of Valles Marineris North and Valles Marineris South
    create the enormous canyons on Mars? What led to the creation of plate tectonics on Earth?*

    Yin, who will continue to study plate tectonics on Mars, will answer those questions in a follow-up paper that he also plans to publish in the journal Lithosphere.

    This could be a large fissure with faults, but any current major tectonic plate movement seems unlikely to me.

    .
    ‘Plate Tectonics’ Discovered on Mars–Found Nowhere Else Beyond Earth in Solar System
    .

    This seems somewhat over hyped.

    Venus because it is hotter and lacks oceans & tectonic plates subducting at boundaries, so it seems to have periodic resurfacing with lava replacing the whole crust spasmodically rather than a piece at a time, so any earlier history is erased  Changes in the crusts and heat dissipation systems seem to vary from one orbiting body to another.

    It is hypothesized that Venus underwent some sort of global resurfacing about 300–500 million years ago, however no Venusian rock has ever been dated. Although it is exciting to imagine the entire crust of Venus sinking into the mantle, it is probably more reasonable to
    discuss massive lava flows lasting thousands to millions of years.

    One possible explanation for this event is that it is part of a cyclic process on Venus. On Earth, plate tectonics allows heat to escape from the mantle. However, Venus has no evidence of plate tectonics, so the theory is that the interior of the planet heats up (due to the decay of radioactive elements) until material in the mantle is hot enough to force its way to the surface. The subsequent resurfacing event covers most or all of the planet with lava, until the mantle is cool enough for the process to start over. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G

    There are also signs of crustal fractures and recycling of the crust on the moons of outer planets, (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Titan) but if such processes could be described as tectonics similar to Earth is dubious, but open to varying definitions.

  2. What I find curious is that this is just only now discovered. These are not small features. How come it has taken so long before somebody saw this? It’s like an alien space ship that observes Earth only after thirty years discovers the Himalayas…

  3. The movement your describing here, with regard to outer planets, (largely the Jovian system) has been put down to gravitational stresses imposed by their hosts, and therefore, strictly speaking, not plate tectonics in the sense that they don’t have independently molten cores (or that they have anything molten remaining) but the whole body is flexed and stretched  like bending a paperclip repeatedly (this is a borrowed metaphor).  I also, maybe naively, thought that it had been determined that Mars, having a nearly negligible magnetic field, (a hallmark of a molten core [nickel iron in our case]not to mention volcanic activity) had a solid core (having cooled).  I wonder if these could be features only just revealed by virtue of dust storm activity. It would be interesting in any case to find Mars to be a more dynamic environment.  It almost seems to be nothing more than an ice cube
    (a rusty one at that) right now. 

  4. Yin’s argument doesn’t actually make sense at all. Whatever plates exist cannot simply move 93 miles just in one single 2500 mile fault. The material has to go somewhere….which means displacing other material, which in turn displaces yet more other material. There should therefore be a corresponding subduction or crumple zone…which itself would add strong evidence for fault movement. Yet no such area exists.

  5. voxu
    The movement your describing here, with regard to outer planets, (largely the Jovian system) has been put down to gravitational stresses imposed by their hosts, and therefore, strictly speaking, not plate tectonics in the sense that they don’t have independently molten cores (or that they have anything molten remaining) but the whole body is flexed and stretched  like bending a paperclip repeatedly (this is a borrowed metaphor).

    The source of the heat is irrelevant to the molten or fluid condition of a planet or moon’s core or mantle. (Part of the Earth’s internal heat is caused by tidal drag.)  Likewise the chemical composition of the fluid in the core or mantle is not relevant to the fact it has a crust, crustal movements or (cryo) volcanism.  Different substances can take on various roles. Some of the crusts on gas-giant’s moons, flex by 10 or more metres.

    On the surface of moon’s of the outer planets, water is a rock and methane is sometimes a liquid.

    I wonder if these could be features only just revealed by virtue of
    dust storm activity. It would be interesting in any case to find Mars to be a more dynamic environment.

    The major dust storms on Mars are caused by the seasonal sublimation of CO2 snow at the poles, which in turn causes major redistributions of the atmosphere between hemispheres.

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