Location of impact craters considered in this study (red dots): (a) the Earth: (b) the Moon: (c) Mars.
Credit: Lagain et al.

 

Researchers have analyzed more than 500 large craters on Mars finding issue with previous studies that suggested spikes in the frequency of asteroid collisions for the Earth, the Moon, as well as the Red Planet.

Western Australia’s New Curtin University scientists have confirmed the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed impact craters on Mars has been consistent over the past 600 million years.

Lead researcher for the study, Anthony Lagain, from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, says the rate of impacts did not vary much at all for many millions of years.

Impact crater on Mars.
Courtesy: New Curtin University

Crater detection algorithm

Past studies had suggested that there was a spike in the timing and frequency of asteroid collisions due to the production of debris.

Crater counts on an ejecta blanket of a 40 kilometer impact crater. (a) Ejecta blanket mapping (outlined in blue) and automatically detected craters (in green). Red circles correspond to impact craters larger than 1 kilometer in diameter compiled in the manual crater database.
Credit: Lagain et al.

“When big bodies smash into each other, they break into pieces or debris, which is thought to have an effect on the creation of impact craters,” Lagain said in a university statement. “Our study shows it is unlikely that debris resulted in any changes to the formation of impact craters on planetary surfaces.”

The work and findings stem from a crater detection algorithm previously developed at Curtin, which automatically counts the visible impact craters from a high-resolution image.

Credit: ISS/NASA

Formation frequency

Co-author and leader of the team that created the algorithm, Gretchen Benedix, said the algorithm could also be adapted to work on other planetary surfaces, including the Moon.

 

“The formation of thousands of lunar craters can now be dated automatically, and their formation frequency analyzed at a higher resolution to investigate their evolution,” Benedix added.

 

The full paper – “Has the impact flux of small and large asteroids varied through time on Mars, the Earth and the Moon?” – published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, is available at:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X2100618X

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