Spirit Finds an Ancient Volcanic Explosion

NASA’s Spirit rover has turned up evidence that there was once a massive volcanic explosion in the region it’s currently exploring on the surface of Mars. The region is called “Home Plate”, and it’s an plateau of layered bedrock approximately 2 metres (6 feet) high in Columbia Hills.

Spirit found that that area around Home Plate is mostly basaltic rocks, which are created during very fast lava flows. When the lava makes contact with liquid water, it can explode. So the rocks on Home Plate appear to have been created in this environment of lava and liquid water. More good news for the search for evidence of past liquid water on Mars.

One of the strongest pieces of evidence is what the researchers are calling “bomb sag”. When the lava and water meet, the explosion hurls chunks of rock into the air. One of these pieces of shrapnel came back down and lodged in softer deposits.

It’s hard to believe, but Spirit and Opportunity are now in their 4th year of exploring Mars. NASA reports they’re both in good health and continuing to return science data.

Original Source: NASA/JPL News Release