Researchers Catalog More Than 635,000 Martian Craters

Posted on June 11, 2012

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have found that Mars is truly a beaten and battered planet. The team recently finished counting, outlining and cataloging a staggering 635,000 impact craters on Mars that are roughly a kilometer or more in diameter.

CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Stuart Robbins, who led the effort, says the new information will be of help in dating the ages of particular regions of Mars. Robbins also says the new crater atlas should help researchers better understand the history of water volcanism on Mars through time, as well as the planet's potential for past habitability by primitive life.

Robbins says, "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. In a sense it's like building a new and better hammer, which quickly becomes used by everyone."

Here is a short animation of the Martian crater database. Take a look:

Robbins also says, "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."

Hynek, a LASP research associate and assistant professor in the geological sciences department, says, "Many of the large impact craters generated hydrothermal systems that could have created unique, locally habitable environments that lasted for thousands or millions of years, assuming there was water in the planet's crust at the time. But large impacts also have the ability to wipe out life forms, as evident from Earth's dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impact 65 million years ago."

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