Tag Archives: lava

Volcanic Eruptions On Mars Used To Explode Through Ancient Ice Sheets

Volcanoes are many things: spectacular, terrifying, gargantuan, and enigmatic. They free us from ice ages, destroy civilizations and build new islands from the sea as we watch. They captivateboth scientists and non-scientists alike, so whenever a new one is found, its always a cause for celebration.

These volcanoes arent on Earth this time around, however.They can be found on a peculiar southern region of our faded crimson neighbor, Mars. As reported by NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted some unusually textured surfaces inSisyphi Montes, an area packed with flat-topped mountains.

The characteristic signatures revealed the presence of a collection of minerals zeolites, sulfates, and iron oxides which can only collectively form from one type of volcanic eruption, one that occurred through a layer of ice. As ice is no longer present in the region, this means that the MRO has uncovered evidence of an ancient subglacial eruption, probably from one of those suspicious, volcano-like mountains in the region.

Rocks tell stories. Studying the rocks can show how the volcano formed or how it was changed over time, Sheridan Ackiss, a graduate student at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and one of the researchers who discovered the long-lost volcanic eruption, said in a statement.

Curious mineral patches have been identified in a region of Mars long-suspected of having volcanic activity. NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/ASU

Volcanic activity on Mars is thought to be long-dead, but the epic volcanic monuments left behind within the geology of the Red Planet betray to us its much more violent past. A recent study revealed how one epic volcanic effusion billions of years ago actually tipped the entire planet over by 20. Olympus Mons once squeezed out floods of lava across the Martian landscape; if it grew any larger, it would be so heavy that it would sink into the crust.

The mineral patches found in the Sisyphi Montes region, which extends from 55 to 75 south, can only be formed when lava mixes somewhat explosively with ice. Today, the ice-capped south pole is around 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) away from this region, which means that ice sheets were once present in this region.

We have these types of subglacial volcanoes on Earth too: The Eyjafjallajkulleruption in Iceland in 2010 is a good example of this, where the meeting of hot magma and cold ice generated prolonged, huge ash-filled plumes of steam and lava blebs.

These volcanoes either erupt under or onto a volume of ice. Whereas the latter situation tends to be calm and uneventful, the former is almost always more explosive. Ice caps above magma chambers increase the pressure difference between the magma and the outside world, and a higher pressure gradient always means a more explosive eruption.

What happens when lava erupts onto ice. Science Channel via YouTube

Also, the searing heat of the magma encountering the far colder ice initiates something called a molten fuel coolant reaction (MFCI); the greater the temperature difference, the more energetically the heat from the magma is transferred to the ice, and the more explosive the eruption will ultimately be.

Curiously, magma just erupting onto ice never produces an explosion. Volcanologists think that the ice or water needs to be wrapped up inside the magma, where it will rapidly heat and expand into a gas under additional pressure, before it explodes. This mechanism is likely behind the production of these mineral patches just discovered on Mars.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/volcanic-eruptions-mars-used-explode-through-ancient-ice-sheets

What The Heck Is This Huge Lump On The Moon?

Volcanoes capture the imagination like little else on Earth, but did you know that there are also volcanoes on the Moon? Planetary scientists have often thought that the Moon is a dead satellite, in that there is no longer any internal heat left to drive surface processes like earthquakes, mountain building, or volcanic eruptions. Although recent evidence has suggested that volcanism on the Moon may have been happening more recently than previously thought, a new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters shows that scientists still arent quite sure whats happening up there: a new, mysterious volcanic feature has been found on the lunar south pole.

This feature, named the Mafic Mound after the type of lava its made from, is 800 meters (2,600 feet) high and a whopping 75 kilometers (47 miles) across, sitting right in the middle of a gigantic impact crater, the South Pole-Aitken Basin. Its composition is vastly different from the lunar rock it is surrounded by, so where did it come from?

The enigmatic Mafic Mound, outlined. Image credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

The lunar surface is an entirely volcanic landscape. The mare or seas that are most prominent on the near side of the Moon, tidally-locked to Earth, are huge flows of basaltic lava, almost exactly the same type you would see in Hawaii. Major impacts from various space rocks punctured holes in the lunar surface, causing swathes of lava to flood out into basins.

The Moon has experienced bonafide volcanic eruptions too. Between 3 and 4 billion years ago small domes and cones similar volcanoes on Earth formed. The gravitational field strength of the Moon is just asixth of Earths, meaning that volcanic debris was thrown over a very large area even for small explosive eruptions. This meant the cones were not able to successfully build themselves up; consequently, lunar volcanoes are pretty tiny.

So how did this massive southern Mafic Mound form? The authors of the study think the large impact crater is to blame. When anancient impactor smacked into the south pole, a cauldron of magma 50 kilometers (30 miles) deep was formed. As it cooled, it shrunk, but the core of the cauldron remained molten right until the last minute, and it was this prolonged cooling process that drastically changed the mineral content of the lava. At the last minute, thisseverely altered orevolvedsea of lava was squeezed up out of the crust, forming the Mafic Mound.

The Solar System is full of weird and wonderful volcanoes: Cassini has just started its flyby of the icy Saturnian moon of Enceladus, where it will rocket through an erupting ice volcanos plume. Venus erupts pancakes, Io erupts plumes over 60 times the height of Everest, and it appears even our own little Moon has exhibited novel volcanism in the recent past.

Image credit: NASA

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/what-heck-huge-volcanic-lump-moons-south-pole

“Cosmic Ray Muons” Will Be Fired Into Mount Etna To Image Its Innards

In what may sound like a plotline from one of the Avengers movies, scientists are going to beam cosmic ray particles into Mount Etna, one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. Far from an evil megalomaniacal supervillains plan, thetechnique will allow them to build up a three-dimensional image of its subterranean magma network, whichshould help volcanologists predict the behavior of future eruptions at the Sicilian volcano.The study is detailed in pre-print submitted to the journal Nuclear Physics A.

Mount Etna is notoriously unpredictable; as such, its already heavily monitored. In recent times, large, fast-moving lava flows have emerged from the mountain, causing almost incalculable damage to the infrastructure and prompting the evacuation of millions. Twenty-five percent of the population of Sicily lives in its shadow, and another devastating eruption akin to the 1669 event which killed more than 20,000 people back then would be a disaster.

Image credit: Etna is an unpredictable, violent volcano with many eruption styles. Wead/Shutterstock

Volcanologists have spent decades attempting to predict when major lava outpourings will occur from Mount Etna, and how they will flow down the mountain. By using a telescope to look at how cosmic ray particles called muons travel through the volcano, they will be able to map out the future pathways the magma will take to the surface prior to an eruptive episode.

Unlike X-rays, these particles are able to penetrate far deeper through material, including thick volcanic rock. By placing an emitter on one side of a volcano, and a detecting panel on the other, scientists are able to use these extremely precise beams of muons to detect small changes in the space theyre traveling through. For Etna, the ASTRI SST-2M telescope, which would normally look for powerful explosions in deep space, will act as the detector.

Image credit: The ASTRI SST-2M telescope. Catalano et al.

This technique is called muon tomography or muography,something that has already been shown to successfully track the migration of magma through the inside of the Asama and Usu volcanoes in Japan through the hidden plumbing network of cracks and pipes beneath the surface. Its also been used to peer inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, both this year and as far back as 1970.

In fact, this isnt even the first time that an Italian volcano will be imaged in this way. The Mu-Ray projectis designed to map the inside of Mount Vesuvius, an incredible dangerous volcano infamous for burying Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 79 C.E.

This volcano hasnt seen a major eruption since 1944, and volcanologists are anxious that the next event will be catastrophic, although no one is exactly sure when it will likely be. Imaging its innards will assist them in tracking the upward movement of magma towards the surface, allowing them to predict to some degree how the volcano may erupt.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/physics/cosmic-ray-muons-will-be-fired-mount-etna-image-its-innards

Watch A Man Climb Into An Active Volcano

George Kourounis rappelled nearly 400 meters (1,300 feet) into an active volcano to have the adventure of a lifetime and, of course, take a selfie. 

Kourounis is an adventurer and storm chaser who specializes in documenting extreme weather conditions. With fellow explorer and filmmaker Sam Cossman, the pair climbed deep into the Marum crater, located in an active volcano on the South Pacific’s Vanuatu archipelago. 

George Kourounis stood so close to the fiery pit of churning lava that at one point a splash of it melted a hole in his protective suit. 

“When you see that shot of me [in the video] looking like a little silver dot, next to what appears to be a waterfall of lava, that was an extremely dangerous spot to be standing,” Kourounis told the Huffington Post. “It was a bit scary. If something were to have gone wrong. It would’ve happened quickly, and catastrophically.”

Kourounis, Cossman, and two guides—Geoff Mackley and Brad Ambrose—spent four days at the crater’s edge, descending twice into the Marum Crater with rock climbing gear, heat resistant equipment, face masks and three cameras. The footage was filmed with a GoPro, a Canon 5D Mark III camera and a Sony NX Cam.

As Cossman wrote in a summary for the Youtube video, “More people have visited the moon than the fiery bottom of this spectacular and deadly place.”



Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/video-man-climbs-active-volcano

Molten lava meets a can of Coke

Freshly erupted lava can range from 700-1200 °C (1,300-2,200 °F). According to the manufacturers, Coca-Cola is best served at 4 °C (40 °F).

Photographer Bryan Lowry wondered (as so many of us do): “What would happen if a can of Coke crossed paths with molten lava?” He decided to stage an experiment on a volcano in Hawaii. One can had a small hole punctured in the top too prevent the aluminum can from exploding. The second can was left perfectly sealed. Lowry used a GoPro to capture the video and was not in any personal danger. 

How do you think the cans will fare against the lava?

Check it out:


Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/molten-lava-meets-can-coke