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Tech & Science First active fault zone found on Mars

05:55  25 december  2019
05:55  25 december  2019 Source:   nationalgeographic.com

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But the announcement of this active fault zone millions of miles away already has earthbound scientists abuzz. ( Find out how Mars experts are also investigating Cerberus Fossae is thought to be among the youngest fault zones on the red planet, opening up as little as 10 million years ago or less.

This list covers all faults and fault -systems that are either geologically important or connected to prominent seismic activity . It is not intended to list every notable fault , but only major fault zones . Lists of earthquakes. Tectonics.

Several deep fractures cut across Mars's cratered surface in this image taken in January 2018 by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. These gashes are part of the Cerberus Fossae system near the Martian equator. © Image by ESA

Several deep fractures cut across Mars's cratered surface in this image taken in January 2018 by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. These gashes are part of the Cerberus Fossae system near the Martian equator.

Millions of miles away, a robot geologist stands alone on the dusty surface of Mars, listening for faint seismic echoes in the ground below. It’s finger on the red planet’s pulse is sensitive enough to pick up the whoosh of wind, the drone of dust devils, the creak of tectonic cracks, and many other rumbles ricocheting though the planet’s insides.

While most of these signals have been indistinct murmurs, two have stood out loud and clear, allowing scientists to trace them back to their source: the first active fault zone yet found on the red planet.

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And while finding new faults along this part of California’s continental shelf isn’t too surprising, given that it’s a very seismically active area, further Dawe notes that the recent experiment was only able to illuminate a portion of the seafloor the MARS cable traverses, but with further technological

An active fault is a fault that is likely to become the source of another earthquake sometime in the future. Geologists commonly consider faults to be active if there has been movement observed or evidence of seismic activity during the last 10,000 years.

Known as marsquakes, the events clocked in between magnitude 3 and 4, according to data from NASA’s InSight lander presented at a recent American Geophysical Union conference. While the two quakes are small by Earth standards, they’re among the largest yet detected on Mars. Scientists were able to trace both quakes to an area known as Cerberus Fossae, a series of deep gashes that lingers some 994 miles to the east of InSight’s landing zone.

the desert is on the sand: This Cerberus Fossae fracture juts through pre-existing hills and craters, which suggests the system is relatively young. Scientists think it formed some 10 million years ago or less. This angled image was generated using data from stereo channels on one of the Mars Express orbiter's cameras. © Image by ESA, DLR, FU Berlin

This Cerberus Fossae fracture juts through pre-existing hills and craters, which suggests the system is relatively young. Scientists think it formed some 10 million years ago or less. This angled image was generated using data from stereo channels on one of the Mars Express orbiter's cameras.

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The North Island Fault System or North Island Dextral Fault Belt is a set of southwest-northeast trending seismically- active faults in the North Island of New Zealand that carry most of the dextral (right lateral) strike-slip component of the oblique convergence of the Pacific Plate with the Australian Plate.

The Philippine Fault Zone (PFZ) extends 1200 km across the Philippine archipelago behind the convergent boundary of the Philippine Trench Focal mechanism solutions of earthquakes offshore and narrow shear zones transecting recent gravel deposits suggest active left-lateral faulting

The results from this work are pending publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and scientists associated with the InSight team declined to comment until after the study’s release. But the announcement of this active fault zone millions of miles away already has earthbound scientists abuzz. (Find out how Mars experts are also investigating mysterious magnetic pulses felt by InSight.)

“All the expectations we have and all the models we have to try to explain how active Mars might be can now be benchmarked against this measurement,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist at North Carolina State University who is not part of the InSight team. “Mars has just become a bit more alive to us with these data.”

It’s unclear if or how this find might influence decisions for future human settlements on the red planet. The activity could point to a potentially useful source of geothermal energy on Mars, while the seismic shaking—which would feel akin to a big truck rumbling by—might pose an issue for sensitive scientific instrumentation, says Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist specializing in Mars who is currently an account executive at the satellite company Planet Federal. Overall, however, other perils likely pose greater risk for future Mars adventurers, Byrne notes.

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The Ramapo Fault zone is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. Spanning more than 185 miles (298 km) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, it is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region

Faults . Quaternary Fault and Fold Database of the United States. This database contains information on faults and associated folds in the United States that demonstrate geological evidence of coseismic surface deformation in large earthquakes during the past 1 .6 million years (Myr).

More immediately, the marsquakes are a promising sign for what’s still to come from the InSight mission, which aims to untangle Mars’ current tectonic activity, as well as use the tiny trembles to map out the planet’s interior, similar to how an ultrasound can peer inside our bodies.

“It’s a huge deal for Mars science,” Harrison says. “It’s totally mind blowing.”

Geologic gashes

The robotic emissary known as InSight landed on Mars in November 2018 carrying “the most sensitive seismometer we’ve ever put on a planet, as far as I know,” says Christine Houser, a global seismologist at the Earth-Life Science Institute at Tokyo Institute of Technology. It not only detects “every creak and moan in the crust,” she says, but also many changes in atmospheric conditions. A suite of accompanying detectors can measure atmospheric pressure, wind speed, temperature, and more, helping to tease out what’s a marsquake and what’s not.

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Major active fault zones of New Zealand showing variation in displacement vector of Pacific Plate relative to Australian Plate along the boundary. The dextral strike-slip across this zone has also involved clockwise rotation of the intervening fault blocks of about 20° since the early Pliocene.[2].

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE instrument has taken many images that strongly suggest that Mars has had a rich history of water-related processes. Many features of Mars appear to be created by large amounts of water.

While much of what InSight’s seismometer has heard so far is the roar of the wind, there are a few hours after sunset when the bluster quiets down and other signals emerge. InSight detected its first seismic rumble from the planet’s interior, rather than its noisy surface, on April 6, 2019. (Learn more about the first marsquake ever recorded on the red planet.)

Since that time, temblors have been happening with increasing frequency—with more than 300 yet detected. But more monitoring is necessary to figure out why.

Scientists are also unsure what mechanism is causing the various internal rumbles on Mars. On Earth, quakes frequently come from the never-ending movement of tectonic plates as they jockey for position. This geologic dance builds up stress in our planet’s crust that occasionally hits a breaking point. When this happens, the land can suddenly shift, sending out a jolt in the form of an earthquake. (Here’s what'll happen when plate tectonics grind to a halt.)

Mars, however, doesn’t have plate tectonics. After its formation, the planet was a searing mass of molten rock that eventually cooled to form a static crust around a rocky mantle, yet it’s unclear how hot the planet’s insides are today. While volcanoes once gushed lava at its surface, they have long since fallen silent. But scientists suspect that pockets of magma might still linger below, since its stationary crust may act like a lid on a steaming cup of coffee, retaining heat from the planet’s formation, Houser explains.

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Mars has many characteristics that put one in mind of Earth. Consider its polar ice caps Layered features around found both in the northern and southern polar regions of Mars , and As for these pits, the theory that they are the result of faults pulling apart the icy layers is the most currently-favored one .

The San Jacinto Fault Zone (SJFZ) is a major strike-slip fault zone that runs through San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, and Imperial Counties in Southern California. The SJFZ is a component of the larger San Andreas transform system and is considered to be the most seismically active fault zone

In that case, some marsquakes might be due to the rocky planet’s ongoing cooling and contraction. This compression could crack the surface in so-called thrust faults, in which one block of land is shoved atop another. Still others might come from magma or water squishing through the Martian subsurface.

Gurgling from below

What exactly is causing the latest activity at Cerberus Fossae is uncertain without more data from the InSight team, Byrne says, but the region’s history provides some clues.

Cerberus Fossae is thought to be among the youngest fault zones on the red planet, opening up as little as 10 million years ago or less. The geologic newness is evidenced by deep valleys that cleanly cut through the pockmarks of more ancient craters, with sharp, near-vertical walls that are not yet worn down by time. Hints of geologically recent activity also remain: Multiple boulders around the area seem to have been shaken from their original position, leaving behind trails in the Martian dust.

These deep gashes may have formed due to a rising blob of magma—perhaps tied to the towering, if dormant, volcanoes to the northwest—which forced the landscape to stretch and crack. Some of these breaks even seem to have once spouted their own vast sheets of molten rock.

“The detected seismic events might suggest that the crack formation is still ongoing,” Misha Kreslavsky, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who is not part of the InSight team, writes via email.

Other sections of the cracked surface lead to landscapes seemingly sculpted by the rush of floods, so it’s possible that some type of water gurgling below this region could alternatively be the cause of the quakes, Byrne speculates, though he also thinks magma is a plausible culprit.

No matter their source, though, the quakes offer exciting hints that Cerberus Fossae isn’t necessarily dead: “The history of that area is continuing to be written today,” Byrne says. “That’s just—wow.”

The Moon Will Make Mars Disappear Next Week .
Take a break from your regularly scheduled stargazing to watch the moon swallow Mars on Tuesday morning.The moon covers Mars relatively often—according to Sky & Telescope, it will happen five times this year alone—but we don’t always get to see it from Earth. Next week, however, residents of North America can look up to see what’s called a lunar occultation in action. The moon's orbit will bring it between Earth and Mars, allowing the moon to "swallow" the Red Planet over the course of 14 seconds. Mars will stay hidden for just under 90 minutes, and then reemerge from behind the moon.

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