A Martian meteorite was found in 2012 in Africa and shows evidence of the volcanic activity on Mars for the last 2 billion years. This suggest that Mars may have the oldest volcanoes in the Solar System.
Lava flowing over large distances build the shield volcanoes and lava plains,much like the Hawaiian Islands. The tallest volcano on Earth is Mauna Kea at 6 1/4 miles high, while the biggest on Mars is Olympia Mons, a staggering 17 miles high.
Main author of the study, Tom Lapen, a geology professor at the University of Houston, said that this meteorite shows us the volcanic activity on the red planet and gives us insight about its history.
Our knowledge of the composition of rocks on Mars comes from the meteorites that hit Earth. They provide us information about the age of the meteorite, its magma source, and how long its been on Earth.
About a million years ago, something hit a Mars volcano, that ejected rocks into space and they came through Earth’s orbit.
The meteorite discovered in 2012, named Northwest Africa 7635, was a type of volcanic rock called a shergottite. Many other Martian meteorites of the same type have been found.
“We see that they came from a similar volcanic source. Given that they also have the same ejection time, we can conclude that these come from the same location on Mars.” – professor Lapen said.
All these meteorites provide information about one place on Mars. Other meteorites were analysed to be betwixt 327 and 600 million years old. The African meteorite was found to be at over 2,4 billon years old, which means that it comes from the oldest center of volcanic activity in the Solar System.