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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 08/10/2012

UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars


View of central segment of Mars’s Valles Marineris, in which an older circular basin created by an impact is offset for about 93 miles (150 kilometers) by a fault.

It turns out that Earth is not alone when it comes to plate tectonics. University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Earth and space sciences professor An Yin has discovered that Mars is in the early stages of plate tectonics, providing a “glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked,” said Yin via a university news release Thursday.


View of an interior of part of Mars’ s Valles Marineris. The curved white strips in the center of the valley are winkled sedimentary layers resulted from deformation induced by nearby fault motion. The photo was taken by the high-resolution Context Camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.
Yin made the discovery by analyzing roughly 100 images supplied by THEMIS aboard the Odyssey orbiter and HiRise (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He also cross-referenced his findings with research he has done in the Himalayas and Tibet.

“You don't see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars,” said Yin via the release.

The amount of distance the two plates dividing Mars’s 2,500 mile-long canyon system — its longest and deepest — Valles Marineris have moved (93 miles horizontally) is comparable to the San Andreas Fault in California, according to Yin. It also serves to answer the question of how Valles Marineris came to be — a question that has long stumped the scientific community.

As for whether Mars experiences quakes, as a result of the tectonic motion, he says he thinks it does. “I think the fault is probably still active, but not every day,” he said via the release, “It wakes up every once in a while, over a very long duration — perhaps every million years or more.”

However, Yin doubts that Mars has more than two plates. Yin’s findings are the cover story in this month’s issue of the journal Lithosphere.

(UCLA)

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By  |  11:10 AM ET, 08/10/2012

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