NASA says that a region of Mars known as Arabia Terra once experienced thousands of massive eruptions from volcanoes, ones that were so powerful they were able to alter the Red Planet’s climate for decades after. The explosions took place over the course of 500 million years, according to the space agency, where researchers recently published a scientific paper on the topic.
The explosions that occurred in this region on ancient Mars were ‘super eruptions’ — to help put it into perspective for the public, NASA’s researchers say the amount of gas and lava produced by one of these eruptions would have been great enough to fill up 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The huge quantity of ash produced would have blotted out the Sun over a span of thousands of miles.
These eruptions left behind calderas, which are massive holes where the freshly erupted volcano collapsed; similar calderas can be found in various places on Earth. NASA noted several of these calderas in the Arabia Terra region on Mars, hinting at the ancient eruptions and their profound impact on the Red Planet.
Building upon past research, the scientists were able to find evidence of ash that would have resulted from the eruptions. The thickness of the ash helped pinpoint how many of these ancient explosions may have happened, with the figures coming out in the thousands. The last of these great explosions happened around 4 billion years ago.
So far, NASA has only found evidence of super volcanic eruptions in Arabia Terra. The space agency explains that other types of volcanoes are also located on the Red Planet, including a massive ‘shield volcano’ called Olympus Mons that has 100 times the volume of Earth’s latest volcano. It’s still unclear at this time why so many super volcanoes were clustered in this one particular region on Mars.