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Looking below the surface of Mars

Prof. Rossi


July 21, 2017

The region extends well over 1000 kilometers along the equator of Mars. It is known as the Medusae Fossae Formation and very little has been known of its origin to date. The geology professor from Bremen, Angelo Pio Rossi, from Jacobs University, together with Dr. Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Bologna and other scientists, have examined a part of this region, called the Lucus Planum, more closely with the aid of remote radar sounding.

Just like an x-ray, the waves penetrate deep into the surface of the planet and provide information regarding its structure, materials and composition. The data come from the ESA Mars Express space probe that has been circulating Mars tirelessly since 2003 and intermittently provides spectacular pictures of the red planet and interesting information.  

“For scientists, the Medusae Fossae Formation is a mystery”, says Prof. Rossi. “We do not know how it was formed. Up to now, the region could only be observed in the wavelength range visible to the naked eye”. The hypotheses about its origins range from volcanic ash through to deposits of atmospheric dust to the assumption that it may be a former polar cap with residues of materials as found at the north pole of Mars.

In a study published in the renowned Journal of Geophysical Research and supported by the European Union’s EarthServer project, scientists have now found evidence of a dynamic geological history and diversity in the Lucus Planum region. The eastern and western parts of the region spanning several hundred kilometers consist of ash and rocks that are thought to originate from a nearby volcano and are highly porous. In contrast, the crust in the north-west is significantly more dense. However, as is the case with the central region, its composition cannot be determined exactly.

Angelo Pio Rossi has been researching Mars, that is half as large as the Earth and on average 228 million km away from it, for one and a half decades “Not much of the record of what happened 3 or 4 billion years ago is pristine here on Earth”, he says. “On Mars it is different – even the oldest geology is largely unchanged”.

More information:

Questions will be answered by:
Dr. Angelo Pio Rossi | Professor of Earth and Planetary Science
an.rossi [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-3153

Einblicke unter die Oberfläche des Mars