During the 1960s, researchers spotted a strange rock formation on Mars they called the Medusae Fossae Formation. Since they found no explanation for its existence, dozens of alien conspiracy theories arose, claiming it was produced by extraterrestrial life. Now, they finally found an answer to the origin of the strange rocks.
The Medusae Fossae Formation was the result of volcanic eruptions
NASA’s Mariner mission was the first to produce the first clear images of the surface of Mars. It was back then that researchers noticed the Medusae Fossae Formation for the first time. The strange formation looked like some hills that spread for over 3,100 miles on the Martian equator.
This appearance surprised the scientists at first but, then, they noticed how they weren’t even able to explain where it came from. Since science wasn’t accessible, people have started finding other explanations, such as the presence of aliens on Mars.
However, a recent study shed light on the creation of the Medusae Fossae Formation. It turns out that, 3 billion years ago, all kinds of volcanic eruptions took place on Mars, producing these strange rocks. Starting from this information, researchers can now find out more geological information on Mars, but also if it can sustain life.
These eruptions might have affected the planet’s habitability
The Medusae Fossae Formation is a really strange formation, as its entire surface is as big as one-fifth of United States. Its rocks contain sediments that are a lot more massive than any volcanic rocks on our planet. In other words, this formation is the biggest of its kind in the Solar System.
Before the study, researchers weren’t sure if the formation contains only rocks or there was some ice there as well. To find this out, they looked at its density and discovered both rock and ice inside. However, what was more interesting was their composition.
The Medusae Fossae Formation contained traces of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, which are toxic for life forms. Therefore, these volcanic eruptions might have affected the entire climate of the planet, as well as its potential of being habitable. Now, researchers think there are more toxic gases hiding beneath the Martian crust.
The study on this strange rock formation was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons