Geology

The first rock that scientists analyzed on Mars with a pair of chemical instruments aboard the Curiosity rover turned out to be a doozy – a pyramid-shaped volcanic rock called a "mugearite" that is unlike any other Martian igneous rock ever found.

Dubbed "Jake_M" – after Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer Jake Matijevic – the rock is similar to mugearites found on Earth, typically on ocean islands and in continental rifts. The process through which these rocks form often suggests the presence of water deep below the surface, according to Martin Fisk, an Oregon State University marine geologist and member of the Mars Science Laboratory team.


NASA's Curiosity Rover has sampled a surprising diversity of soils and sediments along a half-kilometer route during its first few months on Mars. And what it has found tells a complex story about the gradual desiccation of the Red Planet.

Perhaps most notable among findings from the ChemCam team is that all of the dust and fine soil contains small amounts of water.

In a series of papers covering the rover's top discoveries during its first three months on Mars, the rover's ChemCam instrument team up with an international cadre of scientists affiliated with the CheMin, APXS, and SAM instruments to describe the planet's seemingly once-volcanic and aquatic history.


Deep earthquakes occur where the oceanic lithosphere, driven by tectonics, plunges under continental plates – examples are off the coasts of the western United States, Russia and Japan.

Some new research is a step toward replicating the full power of these earthquakes to learn what sets them off and how they unleash their violence and was made possible only by the construction of a one-of-a-kind X-ray facility that can replicate high-pressure and high-temperature while allowing scientists to peer deep into material to trace the propagation of cracks and shock waves.


Chaotic terrains are enigmatic features stretching up to hundreds of kilometres across Mars. The mechanism by which they formed is hypothesis and even speculation in most cases.

A recent paper, which combines observations from satellite photos of the 280 kilometere wide and four kilometer deep crater plus models of the ice melting process and resulting catastrophic outflow, says that Aram Chaos, the lumpy, bumpy floor of an ancient impact crater on Mars, formed as a result of catastrophic melting and outflow of a buried ice lake. 

The cyclic wobble of the Earth on its axis, axial precession, controls the production of  "fixed" nitrogen, a nutrient essential to the health of the ocean, according to a new study.


Researchers have uncovered the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth.

Tamu Massif covers an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, making it nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars and placing it among the largest in the Solar System. Tamu Massif covers an area of about 120,000 square miles. By comparison, Hawaii's Mauna Loa – the largest active volcano on Earth – is approximately 2,000 square miles, or roughly 2 percent the size of Tamu Massif. Olympus Mons on Mars has a giant volcano visible on a clear night with a good backyard telescope, and that is only about 25 percent larger by volume than Tamu Massif.


Natural rivers are not straight and they are rarely idle; instead, they bend and curve and sometimes appear to wriggle across the surface over time.

That rivers can meander is obvious but how and why they do so is less well known. These questions are complicated by the fact that researchers have for the most part been unable to realistically create a meandering river in a laboratory.

Scientists have previously created simulated streams that bend and branch, but they were not able to limit the river to only a single main flow path or maintain such dynamic motion past the initial bend formation. Working with a 20-by-36 foot river simulator called the Eurotank, van Dijk et al. created a dynamically meandering river.
Early on a winter morning in 2011, residents of western Norway who lived or worked along the shores of the nation's fjords were startled to see the calm morning waters suddenly begin to rise and fall.

Starting at around 7:15 local time and continuing for nearly 3 hours, waves up to 5 feet high surged through the previously still fjord waters. The scene was captured by security cameras and by people with cell phones, reported to local media, and investigated by a local newspaper.

Drawing on this footage, and using a computational model and observations from a nearby seismic station, Bondevik et al. identify the cause of the waves - the devastating magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan half an hour earlier.

Data collected from 2009 through 2012 by NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne science campaign that studies polar ice, reveals evidence of a large and previously unknown canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice.


The people of Youngstown, Ohio say they never felt an earthquake before two-and-a-half years ago. But between January of 2011 and February of 2012, 109 tremors were recorded and the author of a new article points the finger at hydraulic fracturing - fracking. 

In December 2010, Northstar 1, a deep injection well built to pump wastewater produced by fracking in the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, came online. In the 14 months that followed seismometers in and around Youngstown recorded 109 earthquakes; the strongest was a magnitude 3.9 earthquake on December 31, 2011. Six of them could be 'felt'.