Thursday, June 26, 2008

NASA spacecraft document largest crater in Solar System

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor have provided detailed information to what seems to be the largest impact crater ever found in the solar system. Last March, I ran an article that spoke about the lack of symmetry between Mars' northern and southern hemispheres. At that time there was conjecture that this deformation might have been caused by an asteroid impact, however there was some skepticism because the formation in the northern area was not in the shape that one would expect from such an impact. However the new information from the orbiters is creating intense scientific interest in the huge crater. The northern crater takes the shape of a giant basin that covers about 40 percent of Mars' surface, sometimes called the Borealis basin, and is now almost certainly the remains of a colossal impact early in the solar system's formation. At 5,300 miles across, it is about four times wider than the next-biggest impact basin known, the Hellas basin on southern Mars. What's even more amazing is the impactor would have been in the order of 1,200 miles across, making it larger than Pluto! What's more huge object lowered Mars' northern hemisphere between 2 and 5 kilometers!

<NewScientist article>
<More from NASA>

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