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Mar 17 / Dave Schumaker

Martian Super Geysers

Let’s continue the discussion of geothermal topics I started this morning by talking about super geysers on Mars. Pictures from the Mars Odyssey show deposits that scientists from Lancaster University in the UK say are from ancient super geysers. These super geysers ejected water and other material several kilometers into the atmosphere.

The secret to the power of the Martian geysers is that their source water seems to have come from very deep below the surface. The overlying rock at Mangala Fossa appears to have slumped downwards when underground water pockets emptied out, and the amount of this slumping suggests the water pockets lay about 3 to 4 kilometres below the surface.

The pressure at such great depths means water would be able to hold large quantities of dissolved carbon dioxide, which may have come from underlying magma. Once a crack formed that connected the surface to the high-pressure water below, the water would have rushed upwards.

The resulting drop in pressure would have had the same effect as opening a shaken soda can. Expanding bubbles of CO2 would have caused the muddy water to shoot out in geysers at more than 400 kilometres per hour.

(I finally managed to stop using the word “thought” in a headline about Mars!)

[Via NewScientist Space]

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