Until now, there hasn’t been any evidence of plate tectonics on Mars like we have here on Earth. It’s why Mars’ Olympus Mons is so freakishly tall (14 miles high, 3x as tall as Everest), because the crust doesn’t move, so volcanos can just get bigger and bigger. But now, it looks like there is plate movement on Mars— still not as fast as on Earth, but it’s there.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Earth and space sciences professor An Yin has discovered that Mars is in the early stages of plate tectonics, providing a “glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked,” said Yin via a university news release Thursday.
“You don’t see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars,” said Yin via the release.
The amount of distance the two plates dividing Mars’s 2,500 mile-long canyon system — its longest and deepest — Valles Marineris have moved (93 miles horizontally) is comparable to the San Andreas Fault in California, according to Yin. It also serves to answer the question of how Valles Marineris came to be — a question that has long stumped the scientific community.
As for whether Mars experiences quakes, as a result of the tectonic motion, he says he thinks it does. “I think the fault is probably still active, but not every day,” he said via the release, “It wakes up every once in a while, over a very long duration — perhaps every million years or more.”
Yin thinks there might only be two plates on Mars, but it’s more than previously known.
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