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Since NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started searching the planet for them 16 years ago, Curtin University researchers have assisted in the discovery of the largest fresh meteorite impact craters on Mars, one of which included ice at the lowest altitude ever seen. The two Curtin researchers, the only Australians on a NASA-led international research team, were instrumental in the finding of two impact craters on Mars that are over 130 meters in diameter each and originated in the second half of 2021.

Associate Professor Katarina Miljkovic, a research co-author from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Space Science and Technologies Centre, said seismometers and NASA imaging technology were both used to find the craters. “These hits were documented as having occurred in the second half of 2021, when the NASA InSight seismometers were operational along with NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter imager,” Associate Professor Miljkovic stated.

They have discovered evidence of these impacts in the form of a loud blast or significant seismic activity, both before and after the meteorite struck the ground. Impacts occur often on both Earth and Mars, but they typically involve tiny space objects that barely brush the atmosphere. Sometimes, as was the case here, hits might go deeper into the atmosphere and create an audible bang on the ground or in the atmosphere.

Because the meteorite impacts were big, they sank deeper into the planet and produced the only two quakes known to have been triggered by meteorite impacts on Mars, according to co-author PhD student Andrea Raji, who did the research while at Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre. The deep-interior mapping of Mars is aided by the huge quakes that are occasionally identified there, whether they are caused by internal geological forces or, in this case, exterior impacts, according to Ms. Raji.

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Impact events can be thought of as restricted seismic sources with a known location, which makes them very useful in seismology. This is a great approach to have a look at the Red Planet’s internal architecture. One of the impacts, according to Associate Professor Miljkovic, had excavated ice at the lowest altitude yet seen on Mars, adding to our knowledge of the planet’s underground water ice storage.

This information is helpful for a variety of reasons, including the possibility of human colonization of Mars in the future and their capacity to find water as a resource, as well as the understanding of Mars’ basic planetary structure. We must comprehend other terrestrial planets as well if we are to comprehend the genesis and evolution of our own planet, according to Associate Professor Miljkovic. Dr. Raji finished her PhD studies at Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre, where she also contributed to this project. The Australian Research Council financed Curtin’s contribution to this study.

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