Monday, 19 November, 2018

Watch the fascinating birth of a new island in Tonga

Birth of new island could offer NASA clues about life on Mars Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai. NASA
Theresa Hayes | 13 December, 2017, 06:09

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".

Experts originally thought the island would only last a few months before being washed away by the sea, but, a new study has suggested it will stick for 6-30 years.

Dan Slayback, a remote-sensing specialist at NASA, said: "If we fit all of our data to date, we get a 26 to 30-year lifetime".

If Mars was once dominated by an ocean, and if that ocean experienced volcanic activity as ours do here on Earth, that's very good news for anyone who dreams of one day hearing that life did exist on Mars. When the eruption ended and ashes settled a month later, a new island had emerged, rising 400 feet above the ocean's surface.

Wet environments such as those, combined with heat from volcanic processes, may be prime locations to search for evidence of past life, Garvin said.

Satellites have been studying the new Tongan island allowing scientists to generate detailed maps of the shifting topography.

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.

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai was formed by a submarine volcano in Tonga which left behind the 120-metre high island in January 2015.

We know that Mars had frozen water at some point in its history, but a recent discovery of streaks on mountain slopes on the planet led scientists to believe that liquid water could have once flowed on it.

Looks like Hawaii isn't the only series of islands formed from underwater volcanic eruptions. He said that the time lapse video would help Scientists understand why the island was able to persist.