Thesis: Mars Tectonics

Pages: 9 (2610 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Geography  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … theories regarding plate tectonics, with the researcher contending that as Mars tectonics cannot currently be confirmed, more research, including two geophysical methods the researcher would utilize to test the *** theory of Mars tectonics need to be conducted.

Along with exploring issues relating to Mars tectonics, the paper addresses: (a) Whether Mars has mobile plates, and a plate tectonic system similar to earth; (b) Whether Mars has Igenous, Metamorphic and/or Sedimentary rock types, as well as which rock would one most/least likely find on Mars; - What two geophysical methods one would use to test his/her theory of Mars tectonics; (d) What long-term records would prove best for one to begin to collect.

MARS TECTONICS

Introduction

Questions Regarding Mars Mobile Plates

Approximately 50 years ago, Richard a Kerr (1999) purports in "Signs of plate tectonics on an infant Mars," geophysicists determined that plate tectonics shape Earth's surface, as they move around the globe, and create new crust in mid-ocean ridges and plates (p. 719).

Data the Mars Global Surveyor (MOS) spacecraft retrieved indicates that in its history, Mars, referred to as "Earth's diminutive cousin," "resurfaced itself the way Earth does today, spreading freshly made crust away from long, narrow volcanic rifts" (Kerr, p. 719). Frederick Vine, a professor emeritus at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, who contributed significant work on magnetic stripes, instrumental to the plate tectonics revolution during the 1960s, contends the claim that plate tectonics also created the Martian magnetic stripes constitutes "an eloquent hypothesis" (Vine, as cited in Kerr, p. 719). As this paper relates several theories regarding plate tectonics, the researcher purports that as Mars tectonics cannot currently be confirmed, more research, including two geophysical methods the researcher would utilize to test the *** theory of mars tectonics need to be conducted.

As this paper explores issues relating to Mars tectonics, it also addresses the following questions:

Does Mars have mobile plates and a plate tectonic system similar to earth, or is the crust of Mars less active?

Which of the three basic rock types (Igenous, Metamorphic and/or Sedimentary) would one most likely find, and least likely find on Mars (based on answer to question, number 1)?

What two geophysical methods would one use to test his/her theory of Mars tectonics (assuming one could land any currently available equipment on Mars and collect data for 2-4 weeks, and assume that geophysical principles on Mars are similar to those on earth)?

What long-term records would one like to begin to collect?

Different Data Determinations

In "Martian stripes imply ancient plate tectonics," Kim a. Mcrae (1999) reports that a team of scientists announced the apparent appearance of ancient geological rifts on Mars' surface. This report, which relates to the same data noted in the report by Kerr (1999), albeit, appears to contradict determinations from data, as it more strongly suggests that plate tectonics may have shaped Mars. During May1999: "A team of American and-French scientists...announced the discovery of what appear to be ancient geological rifts on the Martian crust, the first evidence that a planet other than the Earth may have been shaped by plate tectonics" (Kerr, p. A24). Papers during the April 30 issue of Science, note that researchers describe magnetic stripes on Mars's surface to resemble structures at the edges of tectonic plates, found on the Earth's sea floor. Kerr (1999) attests:

The similarly patterned stripes on Mars, discovered by reviewing data collected by the Mars Global Observer spacecraft, appear to be much more strongly magnetized than those on the Earth, possibly because the Martian crust is richer in iron. The Martian stripes are also longer and about 10 times wider than those on the Earth. This may have been due to the faster rate of spreading of the plates on Mars, the scientists speculated, or because the Sea Planet's magnetic field switched directions fewer times than the Earth's during the formation of its crust. (Kerr 1999, p. A24)

Jack E. FL Connemey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, the lead author of one of the evolving studies, considers data collected by the Mars Global Observer spacecraft, to be of great magnitude; "mind-blowing" (Connemey, as cited in Kerr 1999, p. A24). This response, the researcher notes, differs from the perceptions of Coe, who contends that as the Martian stripes dramatically differ from Earth's, no one can confirm plate tectonics occurred on Mars, or contribute a concrete idea of something else that could form such stripes. Consequently, geophysicists are not currently ready to confirm Martian plate tectonics (Coe, as cited in Kerr, p. 719).

Dictionary of Astronomy (1997) defines "plate tectonics," as:

The process of continental drift, involving the movement of crustal plates across the surface of the Earth, or other planet, in response to convective movements below. On the Earth, the lighter continental crust floats upon the denser oceanic crust, which is in constant motion. Convection causes the hotter zones within the atmosphere to rise until they reach the surface. The hot rock cools and forms oceanic crust at a spreading axis, usually in the middle of an ocean. The oceanic crust then slowly moves away from the spreading axis at up to 100?mm/year until it reaches a subduction zone, usually at the edge of a continent, where it descends into the atmosphere again. Plate tectonics does not appear to operate on the other terrestrial planets, although the Tharsis Montes on Mars might be a 'failed' spreading axis. Some of the larger icy satellites such as Ganymede and Europa show evidence of a similar surface process operating in water ice. ("plate tectonics," 1997)

According to a Dictionary of Astronomy (1997), Tharsis Montes constitutes a massive upland area located on Mars, measuring more than 1800?km across. The Tharis Montes, also known as the Tharsis ridge, is "centred at + 1?" lat., 113?"W long.;... [and]...includes the three giant volcanoes Ascraeus Mons, Pavonis Mons, and Arsia Mons, each of which rises to about 20?km high" ("Tharis Montes" 1997). At the bases of these volcanoes, Tharsis measures more than 9?km high, as it reaches over 11?km high at Noctis Labyrinthus. Noctis Labyrinthus constitutes an intricate network of fractures, located at the western end of the Valles Marineris.

Matters on Mars

Guesses Embrace Questions Regarding Mars Mobile Plates

Researchers currently question if Mars stripes formed through some other means, such as slow chemical alteration, rather than through creation of new crust, as evidenced on Earth by plate tectonics. Ronald Merrill, paleomagnetist of the University of Washington, Seattle, contends that Martian stripes proffer convincing evidence a magnetic dynamo existed early on Mars, but reversed. Merrill's explanation for the overall pattern of Mars' stripes spreading, albeit, as he contends that no persuasive alternative exists, equals "the best guess at this time" (Merrill, as cited in Kerr, p. 719). The pattern, however, does not exactly match Earth's, and along with numerous differences:

the Martian stripes are a 10 time field reversals, or both;

they are also far less regular in either side of a spreading center;

the ph of a "spreading center" [dramatically differs];

To achieve] the "staggering" intensity of the recorded magnetism [of Earth's],...each Martian plate would have to be 30 Kilometers thick, assuming that they were uniformly magnetized as intensely as the uppermost few hundred meters of Earth's ocean crust. (Merril, as cited in Kerr, p. 719)

Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington does not concur with the concept of plate tectonics on Mars, and contends that the theory proves challenging to comprehend. Solomon purports that Earth's upper ocean crust "is intensely magnetized because seawater cooled it rapidly forming tiny, easily magnetized crystals. But cooling a 30-kilometer slab would take tens of millions of years, leading to larger crystals that would be less easily magnetized" (Solomon, as cited in Kerr, p. 719). Solomon admits: "There's so much we don't know" (Ibid.). The myriad of guesses and questions enveloping Mars mobile plates prompts researchers to wonder if perhaps the stripes were not formed through creation of new crust, but through some other means, such as slow chemical alteration.

In regard to the three basic rock types, Igenous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary, the researcher contends that Sedimentary and Metaphoric are most likely to be found on Mars, while Igneous rocks are least likely to be found there, as the lengthy time element, the researcher asserts, would have likely transformed the Igneous rocks into Metamorphic rocks.

Sedimentary rocks formed from sediment, consist of solid, loose pieces of rocks "in the form of sand, silt, clay, and/or gravel "or the remains of living things found at the surface of the Earth." Sediment evolves from eroded substances that wind, running water, waves, and/or ice deposit, however, may also form from material that seawater evaporation, or the settling of the remains of animals and plants in oceans, lakes, and swamps leave behind. In some instances, over a long period, sediment, which is frequently discovered in layers, "may become compacted and cemented into sedimentary rock"… [END OF PREVIEW]

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