Using data captured from various Mars orbiters, they found that rock in the formation is unusually porous, being about a third less dense than the rest of the Martian crust. The Medusae Fossae Formation is a huge rocky structure that has had scientists puzzling over its origins for decades, but the new work suggests it's the result of massive volcanic eruptions that would have changed the climate of the Red Planet.
"The presence of a pyroclastic deposit of this scale on Mars has important implications for our understanding of the planet's volcanic history, its interior, and volatile content", the co-authors wrote in the conclusion of the study.
For decades, the Medusae Fossae Formation, a massive and odd hilly landscape that extends for more than 3,100 miles across Mars's equators has baffled scientists. Scientists first observed the Medusae Fossae with NASA's Mariner spacecraft in the 1960s but were confused about its formation. Now, a group of researchers have published a study in the Journal of Geophysical Research that suggests it was formed by volcanic eruptions more than 3 billion years ago.
'This is a massive deposit, not only on a Martian scale, but also in terms of the solar system, because we do not know of any other deposit that is like this, ' said lead author Lujendra Ojha, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
For years, UFO hunters and conspiracy theorists looked at Mars' Medusae Fossae Formation and took it as proof of alien life.
Greenhouse gases that the volcano gave out during these eruptions could have actually warmed the Martian surface enough for water to stay liquid surface level.
Both of these processes would have affected Mars's potential for habitability.
Furthermore, Mars's interior may still contain massive amounts of unpredictable toxic gasses because only substantial erratic gasses could have given birth to unusual rock formation as odd as the Medusae Fossae Formation.
The ash spewed out by these eruptions would have cemented into rock over time, according to Ojha, but around half of it has eroded away since then, leaving behind the distinctive undulating hills and valleys that can be seen today. But scientists have not been able to determine whether wind, water, ice or volcanic eruptions deposited the debris there in the first place.
Because the rock is so porous, it had to have been deposited by explosive volcanic eruptions, according to the researchers.
Ash from these explosions plummets to the ground and streams downhill. The new study of the planet will conduct gravity survey of the planets while the future scope of this research implies to distinguish between sediments, ice and igneous rocks of the upper crust of the red planet, he further added.
"If you were to distribute the Medusae Fossae globally, it would make a 9.7-metre thick layer".