In its 4.6 billion-year history, Mars has had its fair share of punches from hurling asteroids and hitting comets.
Today, the surface of the red planet is no less than 43,000 impact craters larger than 5 kilometers; Some ancient areas have more beats than others.
In the ancient Martian highlands of Noachis Terra – a region heavily affected 4 billion years ago – astronomers have observed a triple whammy crater composed of three overlapping basins.
This natural Venn diagram of sediments is not as large as some of the other craters in the Noachis Terra, some of which may span about 140 km (87 mi), but the much smaller crater is still 28 km wide.
And this is just one of the ancient impressions. The largest connects across another 45 km, with a small overlap.
It is difficult to tell whether a collision has a triple effect crater. Researchers state that the impactor may have broken into three pieces before being built closer to the ground, but other examples of this shatter approach do not show such clear ridge definitions, nor do they overlap so neatly.
Double and triple effect craters are uncommon to see, but they are not unheard of; We sometimes find them on Mars and even on Earth, although not all of them are formed in the same way.
For example, in 2015, astronomers observed a similar triple crater in Elysium planitia near Mars’ equator (indicated below). At the time, the team speculated that this could be due to an asteroid breaking into the atmosphere, or that it may be due to a smaller asteroid orbiting a larger binary pair.
In 2017, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observed a long depression from three merged impact craters, which astronomers said was likely to consist of three fragments.
Some have also stated that double craters are due to double asteroids, consisting of two or more rocky bodies orbiting near each other. About 2 percent of all asteroids are treated as two or more bodies in this way, but this does not mean that they sometimes cannot collide with a planet and leave a mark.
“Another explanation could be coincidence,” reads a press release on the latest space impact crater, this time from the European Space Agency, “at different points in time, three different influencers hit the surface of Mars at this location Mara, can create a clean “superposition of craters solely by chance. “
Given how heavily bombed this area of Mars was once, experts say it is a possibility, although it is hardly more interesting.
If, on the other hand, it is not due to three chance encounters, and the effector is actually broken before killing Mars, which tells us something important about this planet: 4 billion years ago, Mars had a very high atmosphere. Hard to penetrate it now, and it means heat and wetness.
Similar to other craters in the region, this triple impact crater shows flattened rim and shallow floor wear and tear over time. Some of its traces even suggest a glacier-like flow, which may have helped soften the soil, slowly filling the indentation as the ice melts.
As Mark often does, it speaks volumes of the past.