The last volcanic activity on the Red Planet ceased about 50 million years ago -- around the time when our planet's plant and animal species, including dinosaurs, went extinct, reveals new research.
The giant Martian shield volcano Arsia Mons produced one new lava flow at its summit every one to 3 million years during the final peak of activity.
The last volcanic activity there ceased about 50 million years ago around the time of the Earth's Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction.
"We estimate that the peak activity for the volcanic field at the summit of Arsia Mons probably occurred approximately 150 million years ago -- the late Jurassic period on Earth -- and then died out around the same time as the Earth's dinosaurs," said Jacob Richardson, a post-doctoral researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
"It's possible, though, that the last volcanic vent or two might have been active in the past 50 million years, which is very recent in geological terms," Richardson added.
Located just south of Mars' equator, Arsia Mons is the southernmost member of a trio of broad, gently sloping shield volcanoes collectively known as Tharsis Montes.
Richardson presented the findings, published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas, on Monday.
The high-resolution imaging was provided by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
A better understanding of when volcanic activity on Mars took place is important because it helps researchers understand the Red Planet's history and interior structure.
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