June 12, 2012
Over 635,000 Martian Craters Cataloged
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
Researchers from the University of Colorado in Boulder have cataloged over 635,000 Martian craters.
The research team just recently finished up counting, outlining and cataloging the 635,000 impact craters on Mars that are roughly a half-mile in diameter.
“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,” postdoctoral researcher Stuart Robbins, who is affiliated with CU-Boulder´s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said in a press release.
The new database is the largest ever compiled of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system, said CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Stuart Robbins, who led the effort.
According to Robbins, the new database could help scientists understand more about the history of water volcanism on Mars, 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,” Robbins said in a press release. “In a sense it´s like building a new and better hammer, which quickly becomes used by everyone.”
He said most of the smaller diameter craters on Mars are younger than the largest craters, and form the bulk of the planet's crater population.
“The basic idea of age dating is that if a portion of the planet´s surface has more craters, it has been around longer,” Robbins said in the release.
He said the new database is expected to help planetary scientists have a better understanding of erosion on the planet.
“Our crater database contains both rim heights and crater depths, which can help us differentiate between craters that have been filled in versus those that have eroded by different processes over time, giving us a better idea about long-term changes on the planet´s surface.”
Understanding the size and distribution of Mars impact craters could also help NASA in its next mission to the Red Planet.
“Craters act as a ℠poor man´s drill´ that provide new information about the subsurface of Mars,” Brian Hynek, who appeared on the journal published in the American Geophysical Union, said in a press release.