A Martian mega-tsunami may have been caused by an asteroid collision, similar to the Chicxulub impact – which contributed to the mass extinction of all dinosaurs on Earth 66 million years ago – in an oceanic region shallow, a study shows.
Previous research has proposed that the impact of an asteroid or comet into an ocean in the northern Martian lowlands could have caused a mega-tsunami about 3.4 billion years ago.
However, prior to this study, the location of the resulting impact crater was unclear.
Alexis Rodriguez and his colleagues analyzed maps of the surface of Mars, created by combining images from previous missions to the planet, and identified an impact crater that could have caused the mega-tsunami.
An asteroid or comet would have caused a mega-tsunami 3.4 billion years ago
The crater – which they named Pohl – has a diameter of 110 kilometers and is located in an area of the northern plain that, according to previous studies, could have been covered by an ocean, in a region about 120 meters below the proposed sea level, he writes EurekAlert.
The authors suggest that Pohl may have formed about 3.4 billion years ago, based on its position above and below rocks previously dated to this period.
The authors simulated asteroid and comet collisions with this region to test what kind of impact it was and whether it could have led to a mega-tsunami.
They found that the simulations that formed craters similar in size to Pohl were caused by either a nine-kilometer asteroid that encountered strong ground resistance—releasing 13 million megatons of TNT energy—or a three-kilometer asteroid that encountered weak ground resistance – releasing 0.5 million megatons of TNT energy.
The crater, named Pohl, has a diameter of 110 kilometers
The amount of energy released by the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful nuclear bomb ever tested, was approximately 57 megatons of TNT energy.
Both simulated impacts formed craters 110 kilometers in diameter and generated mega-tsunamis that reached up to 1,500 kilometers from the center of the impact site.
Analysis of the mega-tsunami caused by the three-kilometer asteroid impact indicated that this tsunami could have measured up to about 250 meters high on land.
The authors suggest that the aftermath of the proposed Pohl impact may have had similarities to the Chicxulub impact on Earth.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.