Dec 12, 2017 - Science

New volcanic island may tell us about Mars' past

A view of the island's crater lake from June 4-5, 2017

Crater lake on the island of Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apa, formed in the South Pacific by a submarine volcano in 2014. Photo: NASA / Damien Grouille / Cecile Sabau

A new island formed from the ash of an underwater volcanic eruption in the South Pacific was initially projected to last a few months, but could exist for 6 to 30 years, according to a new NASA study released on Monday. Researchers have used satellite imagery to study the island in the South Pacific since 2015 and have an “unprecedented view from space of its early life and evolution," the agency said in a statement.

Why it matters: Studying the development and erosion of the island offers scientists a nuanced understanding of volcanic features on Mars that appear to have erupted underwater, “providing clues about when the red planet was wet several billion years ago,” the New York Times reports.

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