The Niagara Falls of Mars once flowed with lava

By Brooks Hays  |  June 29, 2017 at 10:44 AM
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June 29 (UPI) -- Water is often the focus of NASA's many Martian scientific missions. It's true, Mars was once a surprisingly watery world. But it also once featured large amounts of magmatic activity.

The Niagara Falls of Mars, detailed in a new image captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, once flowed with lava -- imagine a massive waterfall running red with molten rock.

NASA scientists say the feature is one of several Martian sites where magma once behaved like liquid water on the surface of the Red Planet.

As revealed by MRO's Context Camera, the former magmatic feature was formed by a steep, staircase-like crater rim. As lava levels rose, the magma breached the rim wall and formed a multi-level lava falls.

The lava falls left behind rougher deposits along the crater wall, juxtaposed by the smoother rock forming the older crater features. Likewise, younger, darker magma deposits are found in the bottom of the crater, but the lava falls didn't flow long enough to fill the crater floor.

"In a close-up image the rough-textured lava flow to the north has breached the crater wall at a narrow point, where it then cascades downwards, fanning out and draping the steeper slopes of the wall in the process," NASA scientists wrote in a news release.

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