Mapping and counting impact craters are the most commonly used technique to derive detailed insights on geological events and processes shaping the surface of terrestrial planets. Scientists from Curtin University have used a crater detection algorithm to analyze the formation of more than 500 large Martian craters.
The algorithm they used automatically counts the visible impact craters from a high-resolution image. Scientists found that the frequency of asteroid collisions that formed Mars craters has been consistent for over 600 million years.
Lead scientist Dr. Anthony Lagain from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences said, “Despite previous studies suggesting spikes in the frequency of asteroid collisions, this research had found they did not vary much at all for many millions of years.”
“Counting impact craters on a planetary surface was the only way to accurately date geological events, such as canyons, rivers, and volcanoes, and to predict when, and how big, future collisions would be.”
“On Earth, the erosion of plate tectonics erases the history of our planet. Studying planetary bodies of our Solar System that still conserve their early geological history, such as Mars, helps us to understand the evolution of our planet.”
“The crater detection algorithm provides us with a thorough understanding of the formation of impact craters, including their size and quantity, and the timing and frequency of the asteroid collisions that made them.”
“Past studies had suggested that there was a spike in the timing and frequency of asteroid collisions due to the production of debris.”
“When big bodies smash into each other, they break into pieces of debris, which is thought to affect the creation of impact craters.”
“Our study shows it is unlikely that debris resulted in any changes to the formation of impact craters on planetary surfaces.”
Co-author and leader of the team that created the algorithm, Professor Gretchen Benedix, said, “the algorithm could also be adapted to work on other planetary surfaces, including the Moon.”
“The formation of thousands of lunar craters can now be dated automatically, and their formation frequency analyzed at a higher resolution to investigate their evolution.”
“This will provide us with valuable information that could have future practical applications in nature preservation and agriculture, such as the detection of bushfires and classifying land use.”
- Anthony Lagain et al. Has the impact flux of small and large asteroids varied through time on Mars, the Earth, and the Moon? DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2021.117362