Tags: hunga tonga hunga haapai | mars | prototype

Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai: A Mars Prototype?

Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai: A Mars Prototype?

A time-lapse image of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'pai made from 282,641 views. (Screengrab of Youtube post/@NASA Goddard)

By    |   Thursday, 14 December 2017 08:11 AM

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'pai could be a Mars prototype, NASA officials said about the island that emerged from the South Pacific Ocean during an underwater volcanic explosion three years ago.

NASA scientists said small landforms that appear to have been formed by volcanos, like the new island in the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga, can be spotted all around Mars, the website LiveScience.com reported.

BBC News reported in 2015 that the island emerged from the ocean 28 miles northwest of Tonga's capital of Nuku'alofa after the eruption of the underwater volcano in late 2014, creating new land 1,640 feet long.

NASA said the island had been expected to be washed away in a matter of months, but now believesit could be there for as long as 30 years. A new island with such staying power gives scientists a fresh platform to understand the process of longevity and erosion, particularly on Mars and other parts of the solar system, NASA said.

"Volcanic islands are some of the simplest landforms to make," said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

"Our interest is to calculate how much the 3D landscape changes over time, particularly its volume, which has only been measured a few times at other such islands. It's the first step to understand erosion rates and processes and to decipher why it has persisted longer than most people expected," Garvin continued.

Garvin said in the NASA statement that he believes the island will help researchers explain how Mars got its current topography.

"Everything we learn about what we see on Mars is based on the experience of interpreting Earth phenomena," Garvin said, per NASA. "We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water. We may be able to use this new Tongan island and its evolution as a way of testing whether any of those represented an oceanic environment or ephemeral lake environment."

NASA research study on the island, including its theories on its rates of erosion, was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in New Orleans on Dec. 11.

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Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'pai, a relatively new volcanic island in the Pacific, could be a Mars prototype, NASA officials said.
hunga tonga hunga haapai, mars, prototype
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2017-11-14
Thursday, 14 December 2017 08:11 AM
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