Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coiled lava flows on Mars discovered by ASU grad student

ASU is reporting that "High-resolution photos (taken by a UA camera) of lava flows on Mars reveal coiling spiral patterns that resemble snail or nautilus shells. Such patterns have been found in a few locations on Earth, but never before on Mars. The discovery, made by Arizona State University graduate student Andrew Ryan, is announced in a paper published April 27, 2012, in the scientific journal Science. The new result came out of research into possible interactions of lava flows and floods of water in the Elysium volcanic province of Mars."
The ASU announcement said that on Earth, lava coils can be found on the Big Island of Hawaii, mainly on the surface of ropey pahoehoe lava flows. They have also been seen in submarine lava flows near the Galapagos Rift on the Pacific Ocean floor.   Ryan explained, "The coils form on flows where there's a shear stress – where flows move past each other at different speeds or in different directions. Pieces of rubbery and plastic lava crust can either be peeled away and physically coiled up – or wrinkles in the lava's thin crust can be twisted around."
[Right, cooling lava on Mars can form patterns like snail shells when the lava is pulled in two directions at once. Such patterns, rare on Earth, have never before been seen on Mars. This image, with more than a dozen lava coils visible, shows an area in a volcanic region named Cerberus Palus that is about 500 meters (1640 feet) wide. Photo by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA]

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