Thousands of years ago, a violent impact on Mars threw parts of its surface into space and part of it fell here to Earth. These are real clues about the past of Mars, and so far the only Mars samples found in our world. Now, a new study, conducted by Curtin University, has discovered the origin of these meteorites: a crater in the region of Tharses, a massive volcanic plateau on the Red Planet.
Martian meteorites are classified into five main categories; Among them are chergotite, the rocks on which the team focused their research. This type accounts for 75% of space rocks from Mars. Scientists have long been dedicated to discovering the ages of these samples, which appear to have crystallized 180 million years ago. The problem is that this age is not proportional to the age of the Martian soil, which would be older.
These meteorites, in question, originated from Tooting Crater, located in the Tharsis region, a vast plain formed by ancient volcanic activity, from the tri-volcanoes Tharsis Montes – nearby. The largest volcano in the solar system, Mount Olympus. “This means that a major thermal anomaly deeply rooted in the mantle under Tharsis has been active for most of the planet’s geological history,” the authors explained.
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This volcanic formation is very similar to that of Hawaii. However, unlike Earth, Mars does not have any tectonics, so the flow of magma accumulated over billions of years, giving rise to the Tharsis region. “The study also provides new insights into the structure of the planet under this volcanic province,” said Professor Gretchen Benedix, co-author of the research. The team has compiled a database of more than 90 million archaeological craters on Mars.
With the help of a machine-learning-based algorithm, scientists identify potential positions that would explain the ejection of parts. According to them, the debris would need to travel at a speed of 5 km/s in order to be able to escape from Mars. Simulations showed that impacts strong enough to dump the debris created craters more than 3 kilometers in diameter — and the rest of the debris returned to the planet, creating secondary craters.
According to the authors, the secondary craters were filled with sediment within 50 million years. If the chergotite that came from Mars was 1.1 million years old, their original crater must have had a detectable pattern of secondary craters, which have not yet had time to clear the surface. Thanks to an algorithm that analyzes more than 90 million archaeological craters, the team found that the Tooting crater pattern would be the best candidate for the source of these meteorites that reached Earth.
This discovery reinforces the importance of machine learning as an ally of science. “For the first time, through this research, the geological context of a group of Martian meteorites can be accessed, 10 years before NASA’s Mars sample return mission,” the team said.
The study was published in Nature Communications.
Source: universe today
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