Volcanic Vents?

Crater chain with pit “skylight” in Tharsis Montes. Credit: NASA/JPL/MRO.

February 28, 2020

Deep pits on Mars are not easy to explain.

Previous Picture of the Day articles discuss many unusual formations on Mars. Craters, canyons, dunes and many other features do not readily correspond to contemporary theories about their evolution. Dunes that do not align with the direction of the prevailing winds and that do not show any movement after years of observation are odd. Other anomalies include crater rims with steep vertical walls and kilometer-deep canyons with no outflow channels.

On the slopes of Olympus Mons, often mistakenly called the largest volcano in the Solar System, are several large holes that seem to be hundreds of meters deep. On Earth some volcanoes have similar “pit craters” on their flanks. Since the pits on Mars are not connected with fumaroles or lava chambers, they are thought to form when gas pockets collapse, leaving sinkholes behind. However, with the recent awareness that plasma is involved with volcanic eruptions on Earth, it should also be considered when dealing with Mars.

Volcanoes on Mars (provided such eruptions took place) are thought to be millions, if not billions, of years old, when the last volcanic eruptions took place there. If the “skylights” are that old, surely they would not look like they were dug into the surface a short time ago.

Olympus Mons has all the characteristics of a lightning blister, or fulgamite, but on an incredible scale. If small blisters have been found on spark arrestors after a lightning strike on Earth, one can imagine the size of the burst that hit Mars and formed the Tharsis Montes region – Olympus Mons in particular. The giant mound is covered with raised dendritic ridges. Its caldera are chiseled out of its summit, and the same dendritic ridges outlining its foundation are molded into its cliff faces.

Craters and pits vary enormously, but they all possess the features of electric spark machining. An electric arc will contact a surface at 90 degrees, and will typically consist of one or more discharge channels that rotate. If the arc remains stationary for a period, it will carve out a circular crater. Most of the surface material will be lifted away and the edge will have a sharp rim. If the current passing through the surface varies, the depth and diameter of the crater may vary, causing terraces to be cut into the walls.

According to a recent press release, one particular pit is located in Tractus Fossae near Tharsis Montes. The HiRise camera, so often mentioned in these pages, captured an image that was looking almost straight down into the bottom of the pit. As conventional aereological theories state, it is a “collapsed lava tube”. Since no volcanic activity of any kind has ever been seen on Mars, the idea lacks weight. Given the electrical scarring that is so evident, Electric Universe theory ought to be given credence.

Stephen Smith

The Thunderbolts Picture of the Day is provided through the generous support of the Mainwaring Archive Foundation.

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