The Source of Martian Dust is Now Revealed

The Source of Martian Dust is Now Revealed

A rock formation process known as the Medusae Fossae Formation is the source of all the dust we get at the red planet.

Our solar system comprises of eight planets but none of them has the same quality as the other. If one planet has the ability to retain life, other has such an extreme temperature that no life can survive on it. They are not only different from their quality to preserve life but all of them have different compositions, properties, and formations. Although, they all fit under the category of planets they are entirely dissimilar in their characterizations. One of the example being, Mars. It is known as the second smallest planet in our solar system and is approximately half the size of the earth. It has an extremely diverse atmosphere which is not suitable for any form of live to thrive.

Unlike the earth, Mars has two moons Phobos and Deimos. Known for its red-orange surface, Martian surface is majorly composed of iron oxide (rust). Additionally, it consists of minerals such as silicon, oxygen, and metals. Mars has always been a fascinating planet for the researchers. It has never failed to amaze the scientists with its surface formation and atmosphere. The never-ending dust cover of the Mars has always been a query that the researchers have failed to answer.

This dust has always been a troublesome affair. According to the recent findings, this dust storm has gone so far that it has impaired two of the NASA rovers working on this planet. NASA rovers function with the help of solar panels which allow these rovers to generate energy for themselves. The dust has created a dark atmosphere which deprived them from their core energy source. This dust has also been known to sink inside expensive instruments, tampering with their mechanisms. The current atmosphere of the red planet has been recorded to circle every 10 years or so. The foremost reason behind the dusty storm on a rocky planet is the formation of a specific rock which is called the Medusae Fossae Formation (MMF).

Surface of Mars. Photo taken by Curiosty Rover. Credit: NASA JPL

The Medusae Fossae Formation has been corroding for about 3 billion years. It was formed by an enormous volcanic eruption that shook Mars to its core. As a result, a discharge of rocks, gas, dust, and volcanic ash was released into the Martian skies. This eventually led to this rock formation. The volcanic eruption has been recorded to be as enormous now, as the 20% area of United States. If the statistics of 3 billion years are considered, it stretched over half the mass of America. This volcanic outbreak is considered to be the largest known volcanic deposit to occur in our vast solar system.

The MMF has slowly polluted the planet over time. According to research, it has been titled as the leading cause of Martian dust. Why has it stayed for such a long period? According to scientists, the answer to that lies in the fact that Mars is different from Earth. If this has been happening on Earth, the natural forces such as water, glaciers, wind meteor impacts, and volcanoes would have stopped these formations. The natural impact, however, on Mars are minimum. The streams of water and glaciers have played a minute role in the global dust wander around Mars.

It has been verified that the total volume of dust measured on Mars is similar to the volume of MMF. It is clear that majority of the Martian dust is caused by Medusae Fossae Formation. It is also supposed that the area that is covered by this dust is approximately between 300,000 to 1,800,000 cubic kilometers. This colossal number covers the whole planet with 2 to 12 meters of dust. Upon research, it was found that the dust contained two key elements, Sulfur and Chlorine. These two elements were also found in abundance in the MMF.

This dust storm occurs about every Martian year (two earth years) or so and can last up to 10 years. Mars’s ability to absorb solar energy has a negative effect on this planet. When Mars is nearest to the sun, its solar energy decreases the temperature on the surface of the planet, as its surface absorbs the majority of it. On the contrary, the atmosphere’s climate gets tepid. This combination of conflicting temperature causes the debauched breezes, forcing the surface to eject more dust into the atmosphere. This cycle provokes the circumstances, which lead to the never-ending dusty storms on the red planet.

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