News of the WeekPLANETOLOGY

Signs of Plate Tectonics on an Infant Mars

Science  30 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5415, pp. 719-722
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5415.719

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Pivotal to the discovery almost 40 years ago of plate tectonics were rank upon rank of magnetic stripes that march across the sea floor, each marking the orientation of Earth's flip-flopping magnetic field at the moment the crust was born. Now on pages 790 and 794 of this issue, researchers report magnetic stripes on Mars. The data, gathered by the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, suggest that in its early days, Earth's diminutive cousin resurfaced itself the way Earth does today, spreading freshly made crust away from long, narrow volcanic rifts. Yet the shape and pattern of the martian stripes are so different from Earth's that geophysicists are reserving judgment for the moment.