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

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

In December 2014, an underwater volcano erupted in the South Pacific kingdom of Tonga, leading to the creation of a new island called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai - and the whole thing's been caught on camera.

When ash finally settled a little over a year later, a new island crowned with a 120-metre summit could be seen from space, nestled in-between two previously existing islands.

The new island was only predicted to last only few months, as it eroded quickly after its formation.

This extended lease of life has allowed scientists to study it closely in the hope it will shed some light on where to find clues about life on Mars and in other parts of the solar system.

"Volcanic islands are some of the simplest landforms to make", said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a press release on the durability of the island on the NASA website.

And the discovery could be far more important than first thought.

According to NASA, similar islands may have arisen on Mars when that planet had surface water.

Looks like Hawaii isn't the only series of islands formed from underwater volcanic eruptions.

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Using satellite data updated in real time, the team is developing 3D maps of the island's topography, studying its shifting coastlines and the amount of its land that sits above sea level. There have also been up-close examinations to collect samples.

Now Nasa has said a mysterious landmass called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai may be here to stay.

The volcanic island exploded out of the Pacific Ocean in 2015 and the video reveals how its shape has evolved.

The second scenario presumes a slower erosion rate, which leaves the cone intact for about 25 - 30 years.

Scientists now want to understand why Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai hasn't just slipped into the sea and disappeared forever.

This island was, in its first six months, very unstable.

Despite the estimate, it is still hard for scientists to determine exactly how long the island has left.

"We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water".

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