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Supervolcanoes! Mars Had ‘Em; So Could We

Science & Space

It’s no news that Mars is teeming with extinct volcanoes. The biggest, Olympus Mons, towers some three times higher than Mount Everest, spreads so wide that it could cover most of France and is so prominent that its snowy summit was first spotted from Earth in the late 1800’s. Astronomers now know of literally thousands of smaller volcanoes as well, sprinkled liberally around the Red Planet, some of them as much as 3.5 billion years old.

But there must have been volcanism before that. Mars formed 4.5 billion years ago, and babyhood is a turbulent time for planets. “Early in its history,” says Joseph Michalski, of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, “Mars would have been hot inside.” So by the time the volcanoes we can see today formed, the planet should already have been releasing heat from its molten interior for a billion years. “The…

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