Birth of new island could offer NASA clues about life on Mars

Birth of new island could offer NASA clues about life on Mars

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai is interesting, NASA scientist James Garvin explained in a video, because islands of its kind are "windows into the role of surface waters on Mars, as they have effected small landforms like volcanos - and we see fields of them on Mars".

The first - involving accelerated erosion caused by waves - would destabilise the remaining volcanic cone in six to seven years, leaving only a land-bridge between the two adjacent older islands.

The island holds similarities to several areas on Mars that appear to be a direct result of underwater volcanic eruptions, pointing to a past when the red planet was wet.

"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", he added.

It comes after US President Donald Trump on Monday directed NASA to send Americans to the Moon for the first time since 1972, in order to prepare for future trips to Mars.

Examining how life gained a foothold on the Tongan island could help scientists pinpoint where to look for evidence of life on Mars, he said.

NASA's studies on the island were presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in New Orleans this week.

Scientists now want to understand why Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai hasn't just slipped into the sea and disappeared forever. This makes studying the evolution of the newly formed island crucial to understanding Martian topography. While the island continued to evolve, it was more stable by late 2016.

The island was formed during the explosion from December 2014, lasting until January 2015 and experts have been keeping a close eye on it ever since.

Despite the estimate, it is still hard for scientists to determine exactly how long the island has left. The video study by NASA shows the transformation of the volcanic Island from 2015 to 2017.



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