Examining a Martian meteorite found in Africa, scientists have uncovered evidence of at least two billion years of volcanic activity on Mars.
The findings, published in the journal Science Advances, offer new clues to how the planet evolved and insight into the history of volcanic activity on Mars, said lead author of the study Tom Lapen, Professor at University of Houston in the US.
Much of what we know about the composition of rocks from volcanoes on Mars comes from meteorites found on Earth.
The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa 7635 and discovered in 2012, was found to be a type of volcanic rock called a shergottite.
Eleven of these Martian meteorites, with similar chemical composition and ejection time, have been found.
"We see that they came from a similar volcanic source," Lapen said.
"Given that they also have the same ejection time, we can conclude that these come from the same location on Mars," Lapen noted.
Together, these meteorites provide information about a single location on Mars. Previously analysed meteorites range in age from 327 million to 600 million years old.
In contrast, the meteorite analysed by Lapen's research team was formed 2.4 billion years ago and suggests that it was ejected from one of the longest-lived volcanic centers in the solar system.
The finding confirms that some of the longest-lived volcanoes in the solar system may be found on the Red Planet.