Marsís remarkable Bullís-Eye Crater
2010 08 09

By Alasdair Wilkins | io9.com



This unusual crater was photographed from 190 miles up by NASAís Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.


Craters with multiple rims - the Bullís-Eye Crater appears to have at least three - arenít entirely unknown, although weíve never found one before thatís so small. The ones weíve previously discovered, such as the Moonís Orientale Basin, are hundreds of miles across, whereas this Crater is a mere 2,300 feet across, less than half a mile wide. As such, its origin presents a mystery to astronomers, and there are two competing solutions.

The first theory is based on the fact that the crater is located in a vast northern plain that NASA believes sits above huge ice deposits. Itís possible that a rock the size of a large building crashed into the ancient surface with enough force to punch through the ice layer to the bedrock below. This disturbance of multiple layers would cause different ripples to form in the crater above, creating the nested pattern we now see.


One piece of circumstantial evidence strengthening this theory is another crater located about a half mile from the Bullís-Eye Crater. As you can see here, that crater also has a secondary structure inside it, suggesting it was formed through a similar process of multiple layer disturbances. This might be an area of the plain where the ice layer and the bedrock beneath are of the right thicknesses to promote the creation of layered craters.

Unfortunately, there are a couple problems with this theory. The second crater inside the Bullís-Eye is almost symmetrical, but it isnít exactly symmetrical, and thatís a serious issue. The craterís raised rim also doesnít fit with a layered impact theory, and there are a couple waves in the upper right corner of the crater that might be evidence of landslides caused by a second impact.

Thatís right - the other theory suggests that not one, but two different rocks hit the Bullís-Eye. (If thatís the case, its name is even more appropriate than we thought.) Itís not impossible, but it is unlikely for two different rocks to hit such a small area, and it still doesnít explain how that second, smaller crater got its layered shape.

So weíre left with two unlikely (but awesome) theories that both explain about 80% of the data weíre presented with, but neither can fully explain everything. Well, I guess weíll just have to go to Mars ourselves and get a closer look at the damn thing. Remind me to pack my case of comically over-sized darts. It is a bullseye, after all.

Article from: io9.com



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