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Mars Crater May Actually Be Ancient Supervolcano

October 4, 2013 Leave a comment

Credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC

Credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC

A research project led by Joseph R. Michalski, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, has identified what could be a supervolcano on Mars – the first discovery of its kind. In a paper published Oct. 3 in the journal Nature, Michalski and co-author Jacob E. Bleacher of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center describe a new type of volcanic construction on Mars that until now has gone unrecognized.

The volcano in question, a vast circular basin on the face of the Red Planet, previously had been classified as an impact crater. Researchers now suggest the basin is actually the remains of an ancient supervolcano eruption. Their assessment is based on images and topographic data from NASA’s Mars Odyssey, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, as well as the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

“On Mars, young volcanoes have a very distinctive appearance that allows us to identify them,” Michalski said. “The long-standing question has been what ancient volcanoes on Mars look like. Perhaps they look like this one.”

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Astronomers Observe Distant Galaxy Powered By Primordial Cosmic Fuel

October 4, 2013 Leave a comment

CREDIT: MPIA (G. STINSON / A. V. MACCIÒ)

CREDIT: MPIA (G. STINSON / A. V. MACCIÒ)

Astronomers have detected cold streams of primordial hydrogen, vestigial matter left over from the Big Bang, fueling a distant star-forming galaxy in the early Universe. Profuse flows of gas onto galaxies are believed to be crucial for explaining an era 10 billion years ago, when galaxies were copiously forming stars. To make this discovery, the astronomers – led by Neil Crighton of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and Swinburne University – made use of a cosmic coincidence: a bright, distant quasar acting as a “cosmic lighthouse” illuminates the gas flow from behind. The results were published October 2 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The systematic survey of absorption systems comprises observations with the Large Binocular Telescope and from data taken with the W. M. Keck Observatory’s HIRES echelle spectrograph installed on the 10 meter Keck I telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The foreground galaxy was discovered by Charles Steidel, Gwen Rudie (California Institute of Technology) and collaborators using the Keck Observatory’s LRIS spectrograph on the same telescope.

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