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Asteroid Impacts Cause Giant Tsunamis on the Surface of Mars, Study Suggests

Mar 28, 2017 06:22 AM EDT
ESA's Mars Express Returns Images Of Echus Chasma
A new study suggests that asteroid impacts resulted to giant tsunamis on the surface of Mars. The findings are based on what are believed to be tsunami deposits found on the surface of the red planet.
(Photo : ESA via Getty Images)

NASA rovers and orbiters at the Martian region have long proved the existence of weather on Mars. But a new study suggests that there were also giant tsunamis on the surface of the red planet.

The study suggests that if a planet like Mars was bombarded with asteroid impacts, it might have resulted into giant tsunamis billions of years ago. Alexis Rodriguez, from the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and one of the heads of the study, believes that they even found tsunami deposits in some channels on Mars.

A study analyzing the Arabia Terra region on Mars resulted in another confounding finding. Researchers say that they might have found the origins of giant tsunamis that hit the shores of Mars during the time when it was believed that the planet has oceans. The existence of Martian oceans was proposed way back in the 1990s. And now, theories support the appearance of tsunamis caused by asteroid impacts.

The research led by Francois Costard, a planetary geomorphologist at the Universite Paris Sud in France said that they were able to identify the possible sources of Martian tsunamis. The study was presented during the 2017 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference and will be published in the Journal of Geophysics Research: Planets.

To come up with the findings, Costard created models from potential tsunami-producing crater impacts, which they call "well-verified terrestrial models," according to Cosmos. The researchers reminded the public that tsunamis on Mars are relatively different from that on Earth; thus, they will result in thicker sedimentary deposits.

One striking finding is that the tsunamis caused by asteroid impacts on Mars could be gigantic and bigger than anything any humans have seen. Based on the models, the waves near the asteroid impact could be atleast 300 meters tall.

The cause of tsunamis was then pointed to a 60-kilometer impact crater. However, they did not disregard the possibility that the deposits they found could be results of two different impacts.

Another crater believed to be a cause of tsunamis is the Lomonosov crater in Northern Mars. The impact is believed to have caused a 150-meter high wave.

The following discovery might affect how science views the formation of Mars. It was originally believed that the surface was shaped by mud flow, erosions, and other factors. But the new study presents a different option.

"That's the key point here; it indicates that there was a substantial amount of water in residence on the Martian surface at this time and that has likely implications for the total inventory of water on Mars." Steve Clifford, co-author of the study said.

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