Tectonic Plates Have Been Discovered On Mars | Out Of This World Weekly

A UCLA Geologist named An Yin has been studying the surface of Mars for signs of tectonic plates and believes that he has found two tectonic plates. Earth has seven major plates and dozens of minor or micro plates that are in constant motion. This may indicate that Mars is still at a primitive state of plate tectonics or that plate tectonics don’t have enough energy from the interior of Mars to be as active as the Earth. This can be viewed as good news because we can study Mars for clues about the past of Earth’s plate tectonic development and we may be able to apply this new knowledge to form more detailed information about tectonic on other planets. This also shows yet another similarity between the two planets that was previously unknown making yet another way that Mars and the Earth are alike.

Yin went on to theorize that features such as cliffs, flat sides of canyon walls, as well as a linear volcanic zone are proof of tectonic plates as these types of features are not found on any other planets in the solar system except Earth and Mars. The Mariner Valleys would be a prime example of this type of geological formation. It is thought that it is at a plate boundary between two tectonic plates and sliding at different rates. An example of this type of fault line can be found in the Dead Sea Transform, which has also caused a large canyon system which forms the Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Gulf of Aqaba. While it’s unknown how often Marsquakes may occur and with what intensity, it’s unlikely that any major Marsquakes are going to upset the Curiosity rover. The abundance of tectonic activity of Earth and its study allows us to do detailed comparisons that would not otherwise be possible.

THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), Context Camera (CTX), and HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) images have been used to made this discovery. While sometimes it seems like discoveries about Mars are limited to soil composition and the search for water, there are many things about Mars that we have learned lately that allow us to understand Earth better. As Mars is the only other rocky planet that we have been able to study in detail, the more things we learn about Mars then the more things we can guess about other rocky planets in the universe. As we find out more about plate tectonics, we may be better to formulate ideas about the relationships between the volume, mass and interior heat of a planet and the likelihood or faults, volcanoes, and quakes. As the search for planets around other stars continues to yield results, we are going to need to be able to make the best guess at habitability and knowing if a planet is undergoing constant volcanic eruptions and quakes will be necessary information before we attempt a visit.

(Below: Map of Mars by altitude, Blue = low, Red = high).

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