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Take a Look! New Mars Atlas Spotlights Impact Craters

Credit: NASA/ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team

When you look up at the Earth’s moon – it’s obvious that it was on the receiving end of impacting objects.

New research is also showing that Mars too is a beaten up and battered world.

Here’s the count, according to scientists identifying impact craters on the red planet that are roughly a kilometer or more in diameter.

It’s a staggering 635,000 impact craters.

Thanks to Stuart Robbins, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, he led the work to compile the largest single database ever of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system.

The new information will be of help in dating the ages of particular regions of Mars, said Robbins in a press statement from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Brian Hynek, also of CU Boulder, was teamed with Robbins, with their results appearing last week in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research – Planets.

Giant tool

The new crater atlas should help researchers better understand the history of water volcanism on Mars through time, as well as the planet’s potential for past habitability by primitive life.

“This database is a giant tool that will be helpful in scores of future Mars studies ranging from age-dating and erosion to planetary habitability and to other applications we have not even thought of yet,” said Robbins, who is affiliated with the university’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP).

NASA wants to know where the craters are and their particular features both from a safety and research standpoint.

“Craters act as a ‘poor man’s drill’ that provide new information about the subsurface of Mars,” Hynek said.

Seeing red dots

The assembly of the new Mars crater database was tedious, said Robbins.

“We have all this new information coming from Mars orbiters and landers that have helped generate far better maps illustrating the planet’s topography and surface details,” Robbins added. “I basically analyzed maps and drew crater rim circles for four years.”

If you’re anxious to see red dots, check out this You Tube video. Every red dot on the globe is a single crater larger than 1 km in diameter!

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By Leonard David


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