WTF Fun Fact 13378 – Volcanoes of Mars

The volcanoes of Mars are part of the planet’s dramatic landscape. Mars is also home to the solar system’s largest known volcano – Olympus Mons.

The many volcanoes of Mars

Mars’ volcanic landscape provides valuable insights into its geological history and the processes that have shaped its surface. The volcanoes of Mars have played a significant role in shaping the planet’s topography and its potential for supporting past or present life.

A variety of volcano types, including shield volcanoes, volcanic domes, and stratovolcanoes, exist on Mars. Shield volcanoes, such as Olympus Mons, exhibit a broad, low-profile shape and gentle slopes. Successive eruptions of fluid lava gradually build up the volcano’s size, facilitated by the low gravity of Mars, resulting in exceptionally large shield volcanoes that dominate the planet’s surface.

In addition to shield volcanoes, other volcanic structures on Mars provide unique insights. Volcanic domes form as viscous lava accumulates around a vent, creating a steep and rounded top. Scattered across the Martian landscape, these structures offer clues about past volcanic activity and its nature.

Olympus Mons

Olympus Mons stands as the largest volcano in the solar system. Its colossal size and unique characteristics make it a captivating subject of scientific study. Olympus Mons is a shield volcano, formed by repeated volcanic eruptions over millions of years. Unlike the steep-sided stratovolcanoes found on Earth, shield volcanoes are characterized by their broad, gently sloping profile.

Olympus Mons reaches an astonishing height of approximately 13.6 miles and spans a diameter of about 370 miles. This dwarfs Earth’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

The surface of Olympus Mons reveals intricate lava flow patterns, resulting from multiple eruptions over time. The volcano’s low topographic relief and extensive lava flows contribute to its shield-like shape.

An explosive field of research

While Mars is believed to be geologically less active than Earth, evidence suggests that volcanic activity on the planet occurred in the past and may even persist to a limited extent today. The discovery of volcanic features and geological clues shed light on the planet’s volcanic history.

Volcanic eruptions on Mars have had a significant impact on its environment. Outpourings of lava, release of volcanic gases, and ash deposition have influenced the composition of the Martian atmosphere and potentially affected the planet’s climate.

The study of Martian volcanoes provides scientists with a deeper understanding of the processes that shape rocky planets. By comparing volcanic activity on Mars to that on Earth and other celestial bodies, researchers can unravel the underlying mechanisms driving volcanic eruptions and their implications for planetary evolution.

 WTF fun facts

Source: Olympus Mons – NASA Mars Exploration

WTF Fun Fact 12963 – The Autumn Equinox

Solstice, equinox – what’s the difference? We know these things meant more to people in agricultural societies, but they still dictate the way we do things today to some extent. The 2022 autumn equinox will begin on September 22 at 9:03 pm.

Why is the autumn equinox so specific?

This is a natural phenomenon that influences culture, not the other way around. So while you might start shopping for your autumn decor in August, fall doesn’t really begin until the solar system says so.

The autumnal equinox occurs when the sun is nearest to the equatorial plane (the imaginary extension of the equator), giving us a day with equal amounts of sunlight and darkness. It lasts a few days, and as soon as it’s over, the days start to get shorter.

Spring also has an equinox. When it’s over, the days start to get longer.

Winter and summer, on the other hand, have solstices.

What’s the difference between an equinox and a solstice?

The summer and winter solstices occur when the sun is farthest from the equatorial plane. They are the day when the daylight is longest (spring) or shortest (winter).

So while the solstices and equinoxes each usher in a new season, each only applies to two seasons and represents a different phenomenon. (And all of the seasons are the opposite in each hemisphere – we’re only talking about the northern hemisphere here!)

What’s so fun about the autumnal solstice?

If you like fall weather (and live in the northern hemisphere), you’re probably pretty excited about its official start.

Historically, the equinox signaled the end of the outdoor working season or harvest season. It was a time to celebrate all of the hard work nature had done for humans and that humans did to reap the benefits and survive through winter. It’s traditionally a time to give thanks and take stock of all of nature’s bounty a community had received.

In many places, it was a time of harvest festivals, feasting (at least on the things that might not be preserved over the winter), and thanking the gods of the harvest.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Spiritual Meaning of the Autumn Equinox” — Spirituality & Health

WTF Fun Fact 12962 – The Earth’s Rotation Around The Sun

The Earth’s rotation around the sun isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact – and one we learn in elementary school. Of course, we don’t retain all of that information throughout our lives, which is why some people answered a question about it incorrectly.

In need of a revolution

Now, this is disturbing in many ways. However, some people don’t do well when quizzed on the spot. We’d like to think that it’s more of a misunderstanding than a quarter of Americans truly believing that the Earth is the center of the solar system.

Spoiler alert: the Earth revolves around the sun.

Maybe we should all talk to elementary school students taking science classes more often.

Parsing data on the earth’s revolution

Here’s how the survey was done: People were asked a (theoretically simple) question: “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth.”

Only 26% answered incorrectly.

According to NPR (cited below): “In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that ‘The universe began with a huge explosion’ and only 48 percent said ‘Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.’ Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.”

It’s a bit of an embarrassing science deficit. In fact, that last misunderstanding (about antibiotics) has been downright dangerous.

However, NPR goes on…“As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts. Only 66 percent of people in a 2005 European Union poll answered the basic astronomy question correctly.”

But let’s not celebrate too soon because “both China and the EU fared significantly better (66 percent and 70 percent, respectively) on the question about human evolution.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says” — NPR