In December 2015, a new landmass came into being in the Pacific Ocean. This represents a tiny island which was produced by the eruption of an underwater volcano close to the Tonga islands. What is even more interesting about the new piece of land are the insights it can bring into the topography of the Red Planet.
The tiny island was formed after an underwater volcano erupted
Two years ago, the Pacific submarine volcano erupted. Once the lava and the clouds of ash settled on the bottom of the ocean, they started rising until they reached a height of 400 feet above sea level. This conglomerate of volcanic material formed new land, namely a tiny island in the vicinity of Tonga.
Before started studying it, researchers gave the tiny island an unofficial name, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai. At first, NASA scientists thought it won’t last more than several months. However, after performing a series of analyses, they discovered it wasn’t likely for the formation to submerge earlier that after 30 years.
The formation bears many similarities with Mars
It’s the first time when such an island comes into being since humans are equipped with advanced means of monitoring. Therefore, it’s the first time when they can study the formation of land. This means they can find out how planets like Mars came into being.
The tiny island has a series of features similar to the ones on Mars, namely those which were formed by underwater volcanic eruptions as well. This is the easiest way for new land to come into being, and indicates that the Red Planet once hosted liquid water. By looking how the new land formation evolves, they could find out how Mars evolved.
“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,” say researchers.