Jhe Viking 1 the lander arrived on the Martian surface 46 years ago to investigate the planet. This fell into what was thought to be an ancient flow channel. Now a team of researchers believe they have found evidence of an ancient megatsunami that swept across the planet billions of years ago, less than 600 miles from where Viking landed.
In a new journal published Today in Scientific Reports a team has identified a 68 mile wide impact crater in the northern lowlands of Mars which they suspect to be a remnant of an asteroid strike in the ancient past of the planet.
“The simulation clearly shows that the megatsunami was huge, with an initial height of around 250 meters, and very turbulent,” Planetary Science Institute researcher and lead author Alexis Rodriguez said in an email to Gizmodo. “Furthermore, our modeling shows a radically different behavior of the megatsunami compared to what we are used to imagining.”
Rodriguez’s team studied maps of the Martian surface and found the large crater, now named Pohl. Based on Pohl’s position on previously dated rocks, the team believes the crater is about 3.4 billion years old, an extraordinarily long time ago, shortly after. the first signs of life we know it appeared on Earth.
According to the research team’s models, the asteroid’s impact could have been so intense that material from the seabed could have dislodged and been transported in the debris flows from the water. Based on the size of the crater, the team estimates the impacting asteroid could have been 1.86 miles wide or 6 miles widedepending on the amount of ground resistance encountered by the asteroid.
The impact could have released between 500,000 megatons and 13 million megatons of TNT energy (For comparison, the Tsar Bomba nuclear test was about 57 megatons of TNT energy.)
“A clear next step is to propose a landing site to study these deposits in detail to understand the evolution and potential habitability of the ocean,” Rodriguez said. “First, we would need detailed geological mapping of the area to reconstruct the stratigraphy. Next, we need to link the surface modification history to specific processes through numerical modeling and analog studies, including the identification of possible mud volcanoes and glacial landforms.
Both lines of investigation are noble pursuits, but it may be a while before a new Mars lander lifts off. NASA is still juggling missions, but its main planetary target going forward is Venus. The DAVINCI+ and Veritas missions would be see two spacecraft arrive on the second planet from the Sun at the turn of the decade.
There are no plans for a future Mars lander, aside from the Mars Sample Return mission, who will collect the rock cores being mined by the Perseverance rover on the western rim of the planet’s Jezero Crater.
NASA is cancel and delay missions because it is a budgetary crisis, so exactly when the agency could turning one’s attention to the Pohl crater is unclear. With the InSight lander on his last legswe will soon lose one of our best interrogators from the Martian interior.
More: Stunning new view of Mars shows where ancient running water once carved its surface