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Discovery of a flank caldera and very young glacial activity at Hecates Tholus, Mars

Discovery of a flank caldera and very young glacial activity at Hecates Tholus, Mars

Publication date: 17 March 2005

Authors: Hauber, E., et al.

Journal: Nature
Volume: 434
Page: 356
Year: 2005

Copyright: Nature Publishing Group

The majority of volcanic products on Mars are thought to be mafic and effusive. Explosive eruptions of basic to ultrabasic chemistry are expected to be common, but evidence for them is rare and mostly confined to very old surface features. Here we present new image and topographic data from the High Resolution Stereo Camera that reveal previously unknown traces of an explosive eruption at 30° N and 149° E on the northwestern flank of the shield volcano Hecates Tholus. The eruption created a large, 10-km-diameter caldera ~350 million years ago. We interpret these observations to mean that large-scale explosive volcanism on Mars was not confined to the planet's early evolution. We also show that glacial deposits partly fill the caldera and an adjacent depression. Their age, derived from crater counts, is about 5 to 24 million years. Climate models predict that near-surface ice is not stable at mid-latitudes today, assuming a thermo-dynamic steady state. Therefore, the discovery of very young glacial features at Hecates Tholus suggests recent climate changes. We show that the absolute ages of these very recent glacial deposits correspond very well to a period of increased obliquity of the planet's rotational axis.

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