NASA scientists are certain that thousands of massive volcanoes erupted on Mars.

The evidence found by the team points to so-called “super-eruptions,” having occurred in a region of northern Mars called Arabia Terra over a period of 500 million years dating back close to 4 billion years.

“Each one of these eruptions would have had a significant climate impact — maybe the released gas made the atmosphere thicker or blocked the sun and made the atmosphere colder,” Patrick Whelley, a geologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who led the Arabia Terra analysis, said in a release.

“Modelers of the Martian climate will have some work to do to try to understand the impact of the volcanoes,” he continued.

Seven calderas – giant holes created at volcanic eruption sites – were the “first giveaways.”

These calderas were initially believed to be caused by asteroids. However, the scientists realised in 2013 that they had signs of collapse and weren’t perfectly round.

“We read that paper and were interested in following up, but instead of looking for volcanoes themselves, we looked for the ash because you can’t hide that evidence,” Whelley said.

Using images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, they studied the walls of canyons and craters while they were hundreds to thousands of miles away from the calderas, identifying volcanic minerals turned into clay by water.

To see that the layers of ash were well preserved, they made three-dimensional topographic maps of Arabia Terra and compared mineral data to the maps.

NASA will now be using these calculations of how much material would have exploded from the volcanoes based on the volume of each caldera to determine the number of eruptions.

It makes one ponder, how can a planet have only one volcanic region?

“It’s possible that super-eruptive volcanoes were concentrated in regions on Earth but have been eroded physically and chemically or moved around the globe as continents shifted due to plate tectonics,” states a release from NASA. “These types of explosive volcanoes also could exist in regions of Jupiter’s moon or could have been clustered on Venus.”

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