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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Mars Craters Caused by...Mars?

Craters showing cluster pattern.
Craters showing cluster pattern.
A mystery that has puzzled astronomers since Viking has finally been solved. Clusters of craters such as the one to the left could not have come from asteroidal impact. But where they did come from has been unknown -- until now.

The answer lies in meteorites found in places like Antarctica. We know they are Martian because they have the same chemical composition as rocks on Mars, among other things. They are made when massive asteroids strike Mars, giving some of them enough energy to literally launch into space. One of those meteorites sparked the debate in 1996 about what some scientists claim are Martian fossils embedded in rock.

But what about the ones that don't make it? Scientists now say that the ones that don't get enough energy get launched only into orbit...and as we all know, most things in orbit fall back down without fuel. When they do, they fall in an easily-recognizable cluster of impact craters.

So next time you hit yourself over the head...think again. Mars didn't turn out too well. (Ok, bad joke...)

(More info:

- posted by Brian @ 16:23 EST