Research

Martian Mantle Convection

Over geological timescales – on the order of millions of years – even hard substances like rock can flow like a fluid. Heat from the Earth’s core drives convection inside our mantle, and that fluid motion ultimately drives the plate tectonics we experience here at the surface. But most other planetary bodies, including those with mantle convection similar to ours, don’t have a surface that shifts like our tectonic plates. Mars and Venus, for example, have solid, unmoving surfaces. The images above provide a peek at what goes on beneath. The upper image shows a simulation of mantle convection inside Mars over millions of years. The lower image is a timelapse of dye convecting through a layer of glucose syrup being heated from below. Notice how both examples show evidence of convective cells and plumes that help circulate warm fluid up and colder fluid downward. (Image credit: Mars simulation – C. Hüttig et al, source; N. Tosi et al., source; submitted by Nicola T.)

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