What do the planet Mars and Hawaii’s Big Island have in common?
Coil shaped lava formations are a common sight on a Hawaii volcano tour, but this is the first time extraterrestrial lava coils have been found.
Andrew Ryan, an Arizona State University graduate student spotted coil shaped lava formations while examining photos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Lava coils found on Hawaii’s lava fields typically range from 1-2 feet across. The ones spotted on Mars range from 16 to 100 feet. Talk about a remarkable discovery!
In his study Ryan noted how the coils on Mars looked strikingly similar to Hawaiian lava flows. On Hawaii, the coils form as lava on the surface cools and contracts quicker than the lava below it, forming spirals and polygonal fractures.
Lava Formations on Mars
Found near the Martian equator, these formations are estimated to be around 20 million years old and are considered to be young on a geologic scale. This evidence is helping scientists build the theory of lava as the driving force behind many of Mars’s equatorial valleys.
While there are no signs pointing to Mars being geologically active today, it does shed light in to how complicated Mars’ geologic history is. And hopefully more images from the Mars Orbiter will lead to discoveries of lava coils on other parts of the planet.
Lava Formations Closer to Home
A Big Island vacation can provide some pretty amazing sights which are apparently out of this world! And a Hawaii volcano tour is the most convenient way to see volcano coils with your own eyes. Unless you really, really want to go to Mars…