Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mars Express scientists find a different Mars underneath

With results that the principal investigator of the Mars Express MARSIS radar, Giovanni Picardi, from the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, describes as unprecedented, Mars is showing scientists that it has an older, craggier face buried beneath its surface.

The results were obtained by MARSIS, the pioneering sounding radar on board ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, and provide important new clues about the still mysterious geological history of Mars.

Observations by MARSIS, the first sub-surface sounding radar used to explore a planet, strongly suggest that ancient impact craters lie buried beneath the smooth, low plains of the northern hemisphere of Mars. The technique uses echoes of radio waves that have penetrated below the surface.

MARSIS found evidence that these buried impact craters – from about 130 to 470 kilometres in diameter – are present under much of the northern lowlands. The findings appear in the 14 December issue of the journal Nature.

With MARSIS "it's almost like having X-ray vision," said Thomas R. Watters of the National Air and Space Museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies, Washington, and lead author of the results. "Besides finding previously unknown impact basins, we've also confirmed that some subtle, roughly circular, topographic depressions in the lowlands are related to impact features."

Studies of how Mars evolved aid understanding of early Earth. Some signs of the forces at work a few thousand million years ago are harder to detect on Earth because many of them have been obliterated by tectonic activity and erosion.

The new findings bring planetary scientists closer to understanding one of the most enduring mysteries about the geologic evolution and history of Mars. In contrast to Earth, Mars shows a striking difference between its northern and southern hemispheres. Almost the entire southern hemisphere has rough, heavily cratered highlands, while most of the northern hemisphere is smoother and lower in elevation.

Since the impacts that cause craters can happen anywhere on a planet, the areas with fewer craters are generally interpreted as younger surfaces where geological processes have erased the impact scars. The surface of Mars' northern plains is young and smooth, covered by vast amounts of volcanic lava and sediment. However, the new MARSIS data indicate that the underlying crust is extremely old.

“The number of buried impact craters larger than 200 kilometres in diameter that we have found with MARSIS,” said Jeffrey Plaut, MARSIS co-Principal Investigator, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, “tells us that the underlying crust in the northern lowlands must be very ancient, dating to the Early Noachian epoch (lasting from the planet's birth to about 4 thousand million years ago).” The Early Noachian was an era in which impact cratering was very intense across the Solar System.

The results suggest that the northern lowlands crust is as old as the as the oldest exposed southern highlands, also dated in the Noachian epoch, and that the dichotomy between northern and southern hemispheres probably formed very early in the history of Mars.

“These results are truly interesting and unprecedented,” added Giovanni Picardi, MARSIS Principal Investigator, from the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’. “MARSIS can contribute to understand the geology of Mars through the analysis of the surface and sub-surface morphology. In addition, with a detailed analysis of the instrument’s data, we can also obtain valuable indications about the composition of the materials.”

ESA Media Relations Office | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>