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The Existence of Plate Tectonics on Mars - Essay Example

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Contemporary researchers continue to debate whether or not Mars has a plate tectonic system similar to Earth. This paper reviews considerations regarding plate tectonics on Mars. Utilizing a review of literature, this paper also considers rocks one might find on Mars, as well as geophysical methods used to test the theory of Mars will ADD AT END
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The Existence of Plate Tectonics on Mars
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The Existence of Plate Tectonics on Mars

Download file to see previous pages... However, observations of the planet's current state shows Mars at much higher level of deterioration that that of Earth. NASA's latest Mars project, Phoenix, made a successful landing on Mars and spent five months collecting data that has yet to be fully analyzed on the planet's climate, soil, and atmosphere. This mission yielded further proof that there was a type of water on or near the surface of Mars. Soil samples collected prove that there could have once been sustainable life on the planet (Cowing). There have also been findings in recent years suggesting that Mars once had a molten inner core, much like our own. The presence of stripes along the crust layer of Mars, believed to be formed from the crust renewing itself through use of the molten core, lends further proof to the idea that there were once tectonic plates resembling those of Earth (Cain). "The theory of plate tectonics is based on the movement of rigid plates on the planet's surface. Plates are bounded a ridge where new crust is created, a trench or subduction zone, where the crust is consumed, and transform faults, along which plates slip" (Connerney, et al. 2005, p. 4). The question as to the existence of tectonic plates on Mars remains a very highly debated issues among scientists.
In its current state, Mars is essentially a dead planet, meaning there is no life present and little to no activity on behalf of the planet itself. The lakes and riverbeds have dried up and what is left of the atmosphere is being blown away in chunks by massive wind shears (Cain). Though it is believed that Mars could have once supported life, that seems virtually impossible now. New theories are supported by scientific evidence which suggest that the layers of Mars once greatly resembled the layers of Earth, including a molten core, tectonic plates, and a changing crust layer. It is believed that the molten core of the planet slowly cooled, leaving the stripes currently observable in the hardened crust. Proof of the tectonic plates was recorded by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor in a 1999 (NASA Press Release). While the initial findings only showed the striping of Mar's magnetic field in the southern hemisphere, new data shows that the magnetic field covers the entire surface of the planet in a pattern similar to that of Earth (NASA Status Report).
(NASA/JPL)
Along the striped lines of the magnetic field there are also fault formations and other geographic signs that point toward the existence of a tectonic plate system similar to that of our own planet. As an example of this, the Tharsis volcanoes on Mars are actually aligned in a straight line and it is now believed that, like the Hawaiian Islands, these volcanoes formed over a hot spot in the mantle (Cain). Fault formations, similar to the Martian ones, can only be formed by tectonic plates shifting, pushing new molten crust up from the planet's mantle and changing magnetic polarity of the area as it hardens (Cain). Unfortunately an exhaustive analysis of the geology of Mars has yet to be conducted. Therefore many of the currently accepted theories of the inner workings of the planet are based on what has been observed and studied on Mars combined with what is known about its sister planet, Earth. Whatever plate tectonics previously existed on ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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