Aussie scientists have figured out the likely origin of where those pesky martian meteorites came from. It’s Mars, for sure, but now we have a good idea of where on Mars.
“Wait, what martian meteorites?” I hear you ask. Well, over the past 20 million years, Earth has been getting served up fresh hot chunks of Mars – around 166 of them, in fact.
When analysing their makeup, our scientists were able to say that these meteorites were coming from Mars, but up until now, they didn’t really know where on Mars they were coming from.
That was until researchers at Curtin University started using a machine learning algorithm, and a new database of 90 million impact craters, to see where the rocks are being hurled from.
“By observing the secondary crater fields – or the small craters formed by the ejecta that was thrown out of the larger crater formed recently on the planet, we found that the Tooting crater is the most likely source of these meteorites ejected from Mars 1.1 million years ago,” said Curtin University’s Dr. Anthony Lagain, the lead researcher of Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Centre in the School of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
“For the first time, through this research, the geological context of a group of martian meteorites is accessible.”
What do these martian meteorites mean?
It might not prove that aliens exist, but this is a pretty big deal for us, our future and Mars as a habitable planet. Firstly, let’s not underscore how cool it is that a machine learning algorithm was able to pinpoint this information – that’s pretty cool, and is yet another neat application of that kind of technology.
But also too, because we now have a pretty reasonable idea of where the meteorites came from (the Tooting crater, yes that is the name the researchers have given it, I don’t make the rules), the implications for Mars are pretty substantial.
“This finding implies that volcanic eruptions occurred in this region 300 million years ago, which is very recent at a geological time scale. It also provides new insights on the structure of the planet, beneath this volcanic province,” said Professor Gretchen Benedix, the Co-Lead on the project, also from the Curtin Space Science and Technology Centre.
“Mapping craters on Mars is a first step. The algorithm we developed can be retrained to perform automated digital mapping of any celestial body. It can be applied to Earth to assist with managing agriculture, the environment and even potentially natural disasters such as fires or floods,” Dr Lagain added.
Does this make the prospect of humans living on Mars any better? For sure, but we still have a while before we get there.
The ‘martian meteorites’ research has been published in Nature Communications.