Ancient volcano on Mars once erupted for 2 billion years straight


If it feels like your week has been dragging on forever, consider this — a volcano on Mars once erupted for 2 billion years straight, which is nearly half of the planet's 4.5 billion-year lifetime.

A new study published in the journal Science Advances describes how scientists were able to discern said time frame based on a 6.9-oz martian meteorite, labeled Northwest Africa (NWA) 7635, found in Algeria in 2012.

Marc Caffee, a professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue University, classified NWA 7635 in the same group as 10 other martian meteorites found on Earth that had all endured similar years of exposure to cosmic rays (1.1 million years.)

"What we interpret from that is that all 11 [meteorites] were knocked off Mars at the same time," Caffee said in a press release.

Although these martian rocks began their journey to Earth around the same time, scientists discovered that they were formed at extremely different times.

While meteorites in the same family as NWA 7635 were all dated about 500 million years old — meaning they were formed from cooling magma on the surface of Mars circa half a billion years ago — this particular meteorite was dated about 2.4 billion years old, meaning it was formed by the same volcano almost 2 billion years later.

"What this means is that for 2 billion years there's been sort of a steady plume of magma in one location on the surface of Mars," Caffee said. "We don't have anything like that on Earth, where something is that stable for 2 billion years at a specific location."

Mars is home to some of the biggest volcanoes in our solar system. The largest is Olympus Mon, which is a similar volcano type to those found in Hawaii — only much bigger.

Despite the abundance of volcanoes on Mars, scientists aren't yet sure which ones this particular meteorite came from.

RELATED: Check out 11 bizarre things the Mars Orbiter has spotted:

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