Astronomers Are Baffled By Mysterious Crater On Mars

Posted: Apr 14 2018, 11:08am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 16 2018, 8:25am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

Astronomers are Baffled by Mysterious Crater on Mars
Mars Express view of Ismenia Patera. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

The crater may be the result of a meteorite smashing into the surface of Mars or it could be the remnants of a supervolcano

This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows a strange crater on the surface of Red Planet. The crater is called Ismenia Patera, and it lies inside Arabia Terra, which is a transition area between the planet's northern and southern regions. However, researchers are not sure whether the crater is caused by the collision of a meteorite with Mars or it could be a remnant of a supervolcano. The origin of this crater is still a mystery.

“Mars' topography is split into two parts: the northern lowlands and the southern highlands, the latter sitting up to a few kilometers higher. This divide is a key topic of interest for scientists studying the Red Planet. Ideas for how this dramatic split formed suggest either a single massive impact, multiple impacts or ancient plate tectonics as seen on Earth, but its origin remains unclear.” ESA statement reads.

Ismenia Patera is about 75 kilometers wide, and its center is surrounded by a ring of hills, blocks, and lumps of rock. The material is thought to have ejected by nearby meteorite impacts. Those impacts also left small dips and depressions within the crater. Another possibility is that the crater once hosted a volcano that erupted catastrophically and ended up throwing huge quantities of magma into its surroundings.

Although the term ‘patera’ is used for volcanic craters and some irregularly shaped, deep craters have also been detected in the Arabia Terra region in the past, it does not necessarily mean that Ismenia Patera is also a volcanic crater. The impact craters are more widespread on Mars, and these cavities can look more like craters formed by impacts rather than volcanoes.

“Certain properties of the surface features seen in Arabia Terra suggest a volcanic origin: for example, their irregular shapes, low topographic relief, their relatively uplifted rims and apparent lack of ejected material,” said ESA researchers. “However, some of these features and irregular shapes could also be present in impact craters that have simply evolved and interacted with their environment in particular ways over time.”

The image of Ismenia Patera was taken on 1 January by the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express. The stereo camera can reveal different features of Mars in unprecedented detail. However, researchers believe that more data on the interior and subsurface of Mars is needed to understand the planet’s complex and fascinating history.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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