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This is an image of some Martian volcanoes.
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Image from: NASA

The Martian Lithosphere

Like the Earth's lithosphere, the Martian lithosphere is the not-so-rigid part of the crust of Mars which is cooler than the interior of Mars somewhat like the film on top of a cup of hot cocoa. On Earth, the lithosphere can be pushed in response to the warmth of the Earth. Warm magma rises to the very surface and pushes the cooler, rocky lithosphere aside. The lithosphere then subducts, melts, and becomes part of the warm rising magma again. Thus on Earth, the recycling of the lithosphere keeps the lithosphere from becoming too thick.

Unlike the Earth, the rocky material which comprises the lithosphere of Mars does not contain enough trapped water to allow the rocky material to slide against each other. Since portions of the rocky material cannot slide against each other, the lithosphere cannot make way for hot, rising magma from the interior of Mars. Thus the lithosphere stays in place and thickens by cooling gradually. So it is that Mars does not have plates moving on the surface.


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The Earth's Crust, Lithosphere and Asthenosphere

Crust, the upper layer of the Earth, is not always the same. Crust under the oceans, called oceanic crust, is much thinner than continental crust. It is only about 5 km thick while continental crust can...more

Martian Volcanoes

On this map of Mars, the lightly cratered Tharsis Ridge is shown, as well as the heavily cratered Martian highlands (near the bottom of the picture), and Valles Marineris to the right. The volcanoes are...more

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The Martian geography is one of high altitudes at high southern latitudes and low altitudes at low latitudes. The ground is less frozen at low latitudes because it is warmer and water can evaporate. Thus,...more

Martian Floods

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Martian Fog

This is an image of fog in a Martian canyon. The presence of fog provides evidence of water, and a water cycle on Mars. More fog has been seen in images returned by Mars Global Surveyor of the south polar...more

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This is an image of a storm moving across the Martian terrain. The camera is looking down upon the storm and the storm front forms a spiral pattern, the same way terrestrial storms are presented on the...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA