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Frass Rock Creation Model 1.01
Since I have been in the computer industry for so long, I have come to realize that a program is never "finished." Likewise, scientific models must constantly undergo revisions as new information appears and changes the way we view things. Therefore I want to make clear that this model of the creation of the Frass rock is just an initial attempt at making sense of the particles found within the rock, and that is why I have labeled it Model 1.01. I am sure to be wrong about many things and so I am making myself "room" to make corrections as new information appears.
Every since I first viewed it, I have been intrigued with this picture of Mars, which shows a probable site for the expulsion of the "new" Martian meteorites. This picture shows a volcano with a water system running down the side and a large impact crater near the edge of the volcano. What has attracted me to this picture was the discovery of volcanic particles in the sand that comes from within the Frass rock. When I first looked at the sand with my microscope, I saw many of these tiny little pieces of rock that were obviously pieces of lava. For a long period of time I couldn't decide if they were actually particles of the rock that broke when I took the samples, or were they pieces of lava that were lying in the sand when the lava flowed around it to form the Frass rock. I was later able to determine that both kinds of lava particles existed and that some of the internal lava rocks were actually a slightly different color than the material of the rock itself. This led me to conclude that my rock must have been made as material from a side vent in the middle of a watercourse on a larger volcano. These conditions are all met, I believe, in the picture below. Therefore, this model will assume that the Frass rock was made at a location similar to the one shown.
If I have my information correct, NASA thinks this volcano is about 170 million years old. The exposure age seems to be about 4 million years, so I think the assumption is that the asteroid strike that ejected the Martian material must have occurred then. Of course we can't yet know for sure if these values are correct of if they apply to this site, but from looking at the picture we can determine a few things. The volcano is probably old since it has numerous meteorite strikes on the surface of the volcano. Also, I think we can see multiple phases of this volcano system. There must have been some process that lifted this volcano to its present height above the surrounding plains. But concurrent with that phase, or in a later phase, the volcano had to be venting water. That is the only place that the water could have come from. A final phase involved the moving of the vent from left to right in the picture above. Many terrestrial volcanoes exhibit this tendency and it doesn't seem to be a large leap to think that a similar process might occur on Mars. If you carefully examine the water system, you can see where there are many "bumps" and several "worms." I believe these represent side vents where lava flowed. From viewing the contents of my rock, I believe this system could have been stable for millions of years. Water vapor and other gasses were ejected from these vents. But the cold and thin atmosphere would not be conductive to carrying off these gasses and they tended to freeze and fall back down in the near vicinity of the volcano. Thus the main crater of the volcano collected water for a long time and was once filled to the "brim." Before the side broke, you can see where water flowed from the rim in several different directions. Then later, the water washed through one side and began digging the deep trench we now see. I see evidence of multiple floods, but the system could well have been stable for a long period with water coming from the vents, freezing in the atmosphere, falling back to Mars, collecting in holes which were either warm continually, or were warm from time to time. This system would be great for supplying the necessary energy for life to evolve and fill many niches. The following drawing demonstrates the model I have proposed.
This drawing represents a side view of the volcano in the picture above. I have "cut" it right through the edge of the main crater, down the watercourse, and across the ejection crater at the far right side. The legend for the drawing is as follows:
1 is the "level" surface of the planet (not visible in picture).
2 is the layers of the volcano, some of which are visible in the picture above and in other pictures of Martian water systems. In the picture above, look at the main crater itself. If you look at the point where the watercourse leaves the crater, there are two "ledges" that I think represent different layers of volcanic activity. These layers seem to show through in the ejection crater also. I see this feature many times in terrestrial waterways when you have materials of different densities and they erode at different rates, leaving these "plateau" regions along the meanders of the river system.
3 represents the sand making portion of the volcano. If the volcano provided millions of years of heat, then there would be time to work material to concentrate the silicates and then provide water to break these rocks down into small pieces. Some of the sand in the Frass rock was probably made here, according to this model.
4 represents a plug at the volcano main vent. There probably was an initial phases where this vent was open and the main portion of the volcano was raised from the surface of the planet. But at some point, the heat energy became less and the plug formed and made a nice crater for the collection of water. The flat, feature-less bottom of the crater suggests to me that it had liquid water in it for a long time.
5 is the common heat and/or magma source from within the planet, whatever its mechanism might be. The common magma source is necessary to account for the linear nature of the rock and its contents. This heat source probably moved with time much like Earthly volcanoes do, except on Mars the process is much slower and more prolonged. The geology of Mars is probably much more regional than Earth. Earth is a larger planet and has more energy to devote to moving things around and mixing them together. Mars would represent a more simple system where, at least in the later years, local areas are affected mostly by local events. One of the most compelling arguments that the Frass rock came from Mars is the linear nature of the chemistry of the rock and its contents. This linear nature means that the contents of the rock were made from the same base material as the rock itself and thus shows a very regional nature to its chemistry. I think Mars is the most likely place in our solar system to have these long term and stable volcanic systems.
6 is the original lake top before the other side "broke loose" at a later time. Because I see multiple small water systems leaving this crater from several different sides, I think I can conclude that this lake was once full all the way to the top.
7 demonstrates the water vapor and other gasses being expelled from the vent or nearby vents and immediately freezing and falling back into the crater where they could collect as frozen or liquid material, depending on the temperature of the bottom of the lake at the time in question.
8 shows the cross section of the water course. Successive floods have deepened the one river so that it is very deep. Large floods were probably necessary at first to create the watercourse of the size we see, but over time it could have flowed on a steady basis, if the volcano was ejecting and collecting enough liquid water. I see evidence of multiple flows and it looks to me like there has been volcanic and water action in the ejecting crater since the material was ejected. This would mean that water has flowed on Mars as recently as a few million years ago. Mars may have just died or being in the final phases of dying.
9 shows the edges of the expulsion crater. This crater was made when a large object collided with Mars at the edge of this volcano and within the water system created by the volcano. When this object struck Mars, much material was ejected from this spot, leaving the crater. Some of the material from this event apparently made its way to Earth and the Frass rock well could have been one of the rocks sitting in this water system when the asteroid struck.
10 shows one of the "ledges" that I spoke of earlier. I think this probably represents a separate flow from the volcano, old or new. If you look in the picture above at the place where the river enters the crater area, you can see this raised plateau. It appears that this layer was made of "harder" material than that above it and so was not dislodged when the asteroid struck this place. Or, it could be new volcanism that has occurred since the impact. In this case, life would probably still be active in this area. Also, this marks a region that apparently shows volcanic material from more than one eruption. This could account for the variety of particles that have come from within the Frass rock. Of course, the internal lava rocks could have come from any material produced upstream, so they could have come from the main vent on down to the impact crater.
11 just shows a possible site for the material to make the rock itself. This material could have been very old, but had its K-Ar clock reset when it was re-melted 13 million years ago. This would explain why it has more iron in it than does the sandy material alone. The sandy material was made upstream where it had spent much more time in hot zones being melted and re-melted. But the Frass rock was probably made from material at the edge of the volcano that had been sitting there a long time without being melted. Thus it has much more iron than the sand itself.
12 is a possible region where the red portions of the rock might have originated. When the rock was made, numerous inclusions of material occurred. Some of this was very red colored and appears to be older volcanic material that has been in the presence of liquid water. The different layers within the watercourse would provide opportunities for different kinds of lava and other materials to be included within the rock.
13 is the water table. This system shows to have been operating over a very long period of time, at least millions of years. For Mars to show so many water systems there must once have been lots of water. Where did it go? If the model I am proposing is anywhere near correct, then it means that the water of Mars was and is in the ground. Since the "river" starts at the crater of the volcano, this is where the water had to have originated from the viewpoint of the surface. On Earth, water gets stored in layers between rocks as some rocks are porous and some are not. The same thing could easily happen on Mars, as we have evidence of different layers from the photographs. Heat from the volcano would provide the necessary energy to keep water in its liquid state. I think there is a good chance that the water is still there and is just below the surface and now probably mostly frozen since most of the heat of Mars is now used up.
14 is just another "view" of the layers within the volcano. This shows the possible candidates for different creation sites for different parts of the rock and its contents.
15 is the most likely place to find life currently living on Mars. Some of these vents may still be slightly active and life may still flourish in these spots. A good microscope on the next Mars probe might be able to see some of the small features that exist in the Frass rock.
In summary, for all of the particles within the Frass rock to have a linear chemistry means that they had to have had a common source material. The diagram shows how a system of this nature could be stable for millions of years and shows how the system could produce the liquid water necessary to make the water systems that we see all over Mars. Earthly volcanoes just don't stay stable long enough to rise above the surrounding surface, make sand from this material, have the sand move down a water course, and then have related material surround the sand in the form of a lava rock. On Earth, there is too much energy and a single system can't stay stable for very long without being mixed with material from other places. A couple of the sand samples do show small variations from true linear, so this would probably represent material that has been carried to this site as dust from other locations.
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