Researchers propose that a large asteroid, similar to the one that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth, impacted the watery surface of Mars, causing waves up to 250 meters high.

An international group of astronomers says they have found the sediments of an ancient megatsunami produced by the impact of a gigantic asteroid on Mars , similar to the one that killed the dinosaurs on Earth, as detailed in a study published by the journal Scientific Reports .

Until now, the place where NASA’s Viking 1 probe landed in 1976 was a mystery in planetary exploration. It is a huge channel formed by catastrophic river floods some 3.4 billion years ago.

Recent research proposes an asteroid between 3 and 9 km in diameter, similar to Chicxulub, the asteroid that fell to Earth and is credited with the end of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago , impacted in a northern ocean. shallow that formed the rocky plains, which makes it possible to ensure that the landing point would have been the correct place to look for signs of life.

Un megatsunami “devastador”
However, the probe returned images of debris with no evidence of past flooding, for which explanations were put forward such as that the sedimentary deposits were made up of ejecta blankets caused by meteorite impacts or degraded lava flows, but there were no impact craters. nor sufficiently abundant fragments of lava.

The research is based on the identification of an oceanic crater and simulations of the wave generated by the impact of the asteroid: “Our simulations show that the megatsunami was devastating and initially reached a wave height of 250 meters and flooded coastal areas located for what less than 2,000 km from the impact crater. These coastal areas include a huge basin where the wave could have formed an inland sea in the tropics of the planet”, explained co-author Mario Zarroca.

A new geological context on Mars
According to the scientists, the crater sits above landscapes formed by ocean-generated flooding and covered by deposits from the most recent megatsunami they have already mapped. In this sense , “it is possible that it contains a geological record detailing the evolution of the ocean from its formation to its freezing,” suggested the author, Alexis P. Rodríguez.

At the time, NASA determined that there was no clear evidence that Mars harbored or had harbored signs of microbiological life in the soil near the landing. However, from this study derives a new geological context to interpret the experiment and reconsider the astrobiological information collected in the first in situ measurements on Mars.

The astronomers suggest that the next step is to characterize land near the crater as potential landing sites based on its potential for habitability and harboring evidence of ancient biosignals.

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