Eruption on Mars?

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image of a potential plume on Pavonis Mons.

There are reports tonight that the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographing the Martian surface noticed an odd plume near the summit of Pavonis Mons. The initial guess was that this plume might have been fog or an new impact on the Martian surface, but the continued presence of the plume might suggest that it is not a transient feature. One suggestion is that these could be a volcanic plume.

Now, Mars has been very volcanically active in the past – in fact the youngest flows could be as young as 20 million years old, so it is definitely not out of the question that volcanic activity could occur on Mars. We should be able to get new images of the area from the MRO sometime later today to confirm this report of the first historic eruption on Mars. You can find more information on images here.


  1. #1 Henrik
    April 1, 2010

    Now this could be extremely interesting as Mars is considered to be geologically dead by some within the astronomical community. With the observed lack of water, a volcanic eruption might give humanity its best chance of finding out exactly what lies deep below the Martian surface. Due to the lack of (observed) water, you’d expect Martian volcanism to be constrained within rather narrow parameters. An eruption that emitts not only H2S and CO2 but also substantial amounts of H2O would be of great scientific interest.

  2. #2 Henrik
    April 1, 2010


    Just had a look at the date. Erik?!?

  3. #3 Boris Behncke
    April 1, 2010

    Luckily that new fissure at Eyjafjallajökull opened on 31 March, not on 1 April, otherwise it might have caused confusion 😀
    Happy April Fool’s Day everybody!!!

  4. #4 Simon
    April 1, 2010

    I saw Elvis in my local Petrol station late last night too.

  5. #5 Philipp
    April 1, 2010

    Only after I followed the link I realized what is going on! Good one – LOL!


  6. #6 Volcanophile
    April 1, 2010

    Yup. Good one 😉

    But I would have loved to see that for real.

  7. #7 Ulrich D
    April 1, 2010

    Ssshh! Don’t give it away! I wanted to hear what Randall and Diane had to say about this one 🙂

    Nice one Erik!

  8. #8 Kver
    April 1, 2010

    Ooh, you wascally wabbit! (apologies to Elmer Fudd)

    I was just about ready to stop class and turn on the projector to show the pictures!

  9. #9 Chauntecler
    April 1, 2010

    I wouldnt joke about this folks this could be Very serious.
    Im’ no expert but I’ve read and listened to alot on volcanoes and planets for many years. This is the largest volcabo in the solar System and because this is on another planet it makes it a planetary eruption. Becaause Mars is getting further away right now it is pulling more on us and where pulling more on them. So the Iceland Volcano and this one on Mars happen and pull on eachother.
    What could be real bad? It could pull out the silicone layer deep in the Earth and make a disaster like King Gandaalf Boru saw in the sagas. And the sunspot count is low, so the sun is brighter and heating Mars and earth more making the volcanos worse.
    But it won’t effect the climate on mars because they have a CO2 atmosphere and can’t have a climate.

  10. #10 R Simmon
    April 1, 2010

    You are so mean.

  11. #11 will
    April 1, 2010

    You got me. I was explaining how this might be important to my 7 year old son when I clicked the link. He loved it. A volcano on Mars was pretty cool but his dad getting tricked is much better. Nice work.

  12. #12 EKoh
    April 1, 2010

    Erik…you magnificent b*stard…you got me!
    I expected that you would pull a prank, yet I checked the news sites after seeing this instead of following your links.
    Well played sir!

  13. #13 Henrik
    April 1, 2010

    Boris, no particular reason, but you wouldn’t happen to know of a mechanical device that is easily transportable, remotely operated, capable of reproducing both tectonic and harmonic vibration faithfully, does not cost an arm and a leg and is available in, say, a year’s time…?

  14. #14 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Erik I heard there was a volcanic eruption at Area 51, all of the dead aliens were resurrected and then suddenly ruptured back to their home worlds…..not! Well at least it wasn’t a Yellowstone prank this year:)

  15. #15 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Ulrich D do you take me for a fool? I warned someone else yesterday in the other thread about Erik’s jokes;)

  16. #16 Ulrich D
    April 1, 2010

    No offence I hope Randall (& Diane too) – none intended! I know you are on the ball 😉

  17. #17 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Ulrich….none taken:)

  18. #18 Diane
    April 1, 2010


  19. #19 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Erik, EKoh and Boris…where were you guys last night when I needed you? You real experts left me OF ALL PEOPLE trying to tell some of the others that this wasn’t actually anything catastrophic….what an ironic April Fool’s Day Joke that was;)

  20. #20 tom
    April 1, 2010

    Got me all excited for a minute there! I then clicked the last link. I hate April 1st. 😛

  21. #21 Vicki
    April 1, 2010

    You bastard.

  22. #22 Lara
    April 1, 2010

    Nope. You didn’t get me this year! Last year, I pulled my husband out of a meeting to tell him that “The Big One” was happening. : )

  23. #23 Gordys
    April 1, 2010


    You did well last night though.

  24. #24 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Gordys Thanks!

  25. #25 Passerby
    April 1, 2010

    Totally suckered, because an impact strike crater that might reveal an unusual subsurface chemical signature seemed entirely plausible vis-a-vis roaming Rover discoveries.

  26. #26 neil
    April 1, 2010

    Most artful I’ve seen all day, bravo!

  27. #27 Doug C.
    April 1, 2010

    I think that photo was taken by Marco Fulle from SOL as part of their Space Shuttle experiment a couple of years ago…

  28. #28 Birge Johansson
    April 1, 2010

    Since Mars is mostly inert, the plume of smoke was probably generated by a Martian sub-species of Balrog -see “CERN Scientists Awaken Balrog” on Scienceblogs for a similar event.

  29. #29 Randall Niks
    April 1, 2010

    The best part of the AFJ was that it wasn’t even posted by Erik, but rather hacked in by a global volcanism denier

  30. #30 aldo piombino
    April 1, 2010

    sorry but is it april 1, today oe not????

  31. #31 Randall Nix
    April 1, 2010

    Randall Niks? I am Randall Nix.

  32. #32 Melissa
    April 1, 2010

    Haha….. Jerk!

  33. #33 Diane
    April 1, 2010

    Heehaw, Heehaw!

  34. #34 Henrik
    April 2, 2010

    Diane! 😉 Wasn’t the name of the consultant for the movie “Volcano” (starring Tommy Lee Jones) Klemetti? 😉 xD

  35. #35 MadScientist
    April 2, 2010

    That would be pretty awesome if it’s a volcano. I wonder if there are any instruments orbiting Mars which may be able to detect some gases – hopefully at least CO2 since measuring CO2 around the red planet was of some interest, but water vapor would be fine as well.

  36. #36 MadScientist
    April 2, 2010

    Blah, suckered. April 1’s when I want to dust off the ol’ Garand.

  37. #37 Diane
    April 2, 2010

    @MadScientist, garands are great. I am thinking about a mini 14. Can handle that better.

  38. #38 Samantha Vimes
    April 2, 2010

    Bleah. I don’t like getting my hopes and excitement dashed.

  39. #39 Guillermo
    April 3, 2010

    It was so strange for me when I read the title, and I forgot that you have the Fools Day on April 1. In my country we celebrate that on Dec. 28.
    Has anyone fresh news about Melimoyu? I did´n’t hear anything else sice 03/22.

  40. #40 Monika
    April 4, 2010

    The same evening Erik posted his April’s fool joke I was photographing an extinct Hungarian volcano (its last eruption was about 4 million years ago):
    When I was a small kid (3-4 years old) I always dreamed about this and some other neighbouring volcanoes erupting again and myself to watch the eruption’s lights from our house’s roof.

  41. #41 Henrik
    April 4, 2010

    Lovely photo Monika, with Orion looking down on the old mountain, but – do you see the little string of clouds seemingly coming out of it? What are the odds that our M.E. host would post something like this in a year’s time?

    The Central European volcanoes of Saxony, the Czech Republic and Hungary have long been thought dormant if not extinct. In recent years however (link) there have been some troubling signs with emission of noble gases (link), which is an indicator of activity near the boundary between crust and mantle, especially with an active mantle plume.

    Yesterday, I recieved this picture with a note from the Hungarian Institute for Earth Sciences in Budapest, apparently showing Mount XXX, which had its last known eruption some four million years ago, letting off steam. The Hungarians say they have been watching it for a long time.
    (Link: Yep, for four million years it’s done absolutely nothing! The clouds are coincidental. HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!)

  42. #42 Monika
    April 4, 2010

    @ 41, Henrik, That would be a nice post for 2011 April fool’s day 🙂
    By the way in Trannssylvania, there is a volcano (named Csomad in Hungarian, Ciomadul in Romanian language) that had its last eruption about 35-40 thousand years and its eruptive history shows also some longer breaks like this.
    A Hungarian volcanologist had spent some time with investigating the chemical compounds of its lavas, searching for some microscopic structures of the amphibol crystals inside the rocks, with the help of this information he estimated the size and shape of the magma chamber, also estimated the possible place, size and quality of an imagined future eruption. The 2 craters of this volcano is filled up now with Central Europe’s most interesting lakes, one – Mohos-tó (Mossy lake, pics: and )that consist of a very thick layer of moss, some trees rooting into the moss, with lots of ice age plants growing there, many insectivorous plants too. It is a natural park now and one can only visit the “lake” walking on the wooden bridges over it. (Only a very small amount of open water is visible, but if you step on the moss, you can feel the movement of water below.)
    The other lake, Szent Anna-tó (St. Anne lake) has an open water surface in the middle of a very nice forest (pic: favourite of hikers.
    As 35-40000 years in geology is not a long time, the area is full of postvolcanic features, small pods with bubbling sulphurous water, many famous springs of “wine water”, bubbling with natural CO2 (Hungarian people used to drink dry white wine with soda water for centuries, these springs produced natural soda water enough to supply the needs of Transsylvania) so it’s better being prepared. By the way these kinds of theories can help scientists to get some more money on their work too.

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