Iceland has become a popular destination for those researching the planet Mars as the center-highlands of Iceland uniquely comparable to the red planet according to the Canadian volcanologist Christopher Hamilton who studies Mars with the HiRise camera. In his view the protection of the center-highlands is imperative and according to him their scientific value will only grow with time.
Hamilton was among those who gave a talk at the summit “Protect the Park” held by The Iceland Nature Conservation Association, the Icelandic Environment Association and the Nature Conservation Fund in Harpa Music Hall on February 26th and 27th
Hamilton first came to Iceland in 2002 and has had a range of collaborations with Icelandic geoscientists since. He has worked at the Goddard space station for Nasa and along side his work as assistant professor at the Arizona University he operates the HiRise camera, one of the gadgets aboard Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite, orbiting Mars from the year 2006. “Its a camera but you have to visualize it more rather more like a telescope. It space telescope like Hubble, except its directed to the surface of a planet in space rather than space itself. Its a very versatile tool”, Hammilton informs.
Its primarily the volcanic activity, and the joining of fire and ice in Iceland that creates the likeness between the highlands and Mars. Much of our knowledge about volcanic activity comes from Hawaii and Italy. To understand the volcanic activity on Mars we need to look at much bigger eruptions that are not as common on earth. In the last hundreds of years Iceland has seen major eruptions, like in Lakagígar and recently in Holuhraun with much more lava flow that for example in Hawai.
“Untouched nature like this will only be come more and more valuable with time” he emphases, “Countries like the United States and Canada that invested their wilderness into national parks early on have not regretted their decision, probably their biggest regret is not having made the national parks bigger when they still could” Hamilton concludes.