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Researchers discover largest known fresh meteorite impact on Mars

Researchers have helped discover the largest meteorite impact craters on Mars since NASA’s Orbiter began tracking the planet.

Since NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter began tracking the planet for them 16 years ago, Curtin University researchers have collaborated in the discovery of the largest fresh meteorite impact craters on Mars, one of which contained ice at the lowest altitude ever observed.

The two Curtin scientists were the only Australian representatives of an international NASA-led research team that helped make the rare discovery of two impact craters each more than 130 meters in diameter that formed on Mars the second half of 2021.

Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic, from the Curtin Center for Space Science and Technology and the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the craters were discovered using NASA imaging technology and seismometers.

“In addition to NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imager, NASA’s InSight seismometers were operating during the second half of 2021, which is when these impacts were recorded as occurring,” said Associate Professor Miljkovic.

“They detected these impact events in the form of large seismic activity or a ‘bang’, first when the meteorite was passing through the atmosphere and then again when it hit the ground.

“Impact events happen all the time on both Earth and Mars, but they generally involve small rocks from space that just graze the atmosphere. Earth, which was the case here.”

Because the meteorite impacts were large, they penetrated deeper into the planet, causing the only two earthquakes known to have been caused by meteorite impacts on Mars, according to co-author PhD student Andrea Raji, who completed research while at Space Science and Curtin. Technology Center

“Not many large earthquakes have been detected on Mars, whether driven by internal geological forces or, in this case, by external impacts, but when they do occur, they help map the deep interior of Mars,” Rajsic said. .

“Impact events are extremely useful in seismology because they can be thought of as a constrained seismic source with a known location. This is a great way to look at the interior structure of the Red Planet.”

Associate Professor Miljkovic claimed that one of the impacts excavated ice at the lowest altitude ever observed on Mars, which would help us understand the subsurface reservoir of water ice on Mars.

“This knowledge is useful for many reasons, from the potential future habitation of Mars by humans and their ability to locate water as a resource to the fundamental understanding of the structure of Mars as a planet. If we want to understand the formation and evolution of Mars. our own planet, we should also understand other terrestrial planets,” said Associate Professor Miljkovic.


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