A mega-tsunami on Mars could have been triggered by an asteroid impact, similar to the devastation that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.
Scientists believe the 250-meter-high wave was caused by an asteroid or comet hitting a shallow ocean in the red planet’s northern lowlands about 3.4 billion years ago.
Until now, the location of the crater left by the asteroid was unclear.
Researchers at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, analyzed maps of the Martian surface created from photos from previous Mars missions.
They discovered a crater called Pohl, 110 kilometers in diameter, which they believe was caused by an asteroid.
It is located in an area that previous studies have shown is submerged by seawater at around 120 meters below sea level.
Scientists believe it formed 3.4 billion years ago, based on its location above and below rocks that previously dated to this period.
They ran simulations of asteroid and comet collisions to determine what kind of impact would create Bohr, and whether it would trigger a megatsunami.
The simulation of the formation of a crater similar in size to Pohl’s was triggered by a 9-kilometer asteroid encountering strong terrestrial drag, releasing 13 million megatons of TNT energy.
Another 3-kilometer asteroid encountered weak ground resistance and released 0.5 megatons of TNT energy.
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One megaton of TNT energy is equivalent to one million tons of power.
The most powerful megaton ever released has about 57 megatons of TNT energy.
In both simulations, the 110-kilometer-diameter crater produced a giant tsunami 1,500 kilometers from the center of the impact site.
Analysis of the huge waves caused by the 3-kilometer asteroid impact suggests that tsunamis could reach 250 meters on land.
Pohl’s impact has been likened to the Chicuxlub crater buried beneath Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, before the dinosaurs died out.
“The site is located on a highland-facing frond, aligned with an erosion trench, which supports the origin of the megatsunami,” the researchers said of their breakthrough in the journal Scientific Reports.
They added: “Our findings suggest that rock and soil salts at the landing site were derived from the ocean, requiring a scientific reconsideration of information gleaned from the first in situ measurements on Mars.”