Ghosts of the most ancient craters in the solar system are materializing on Mars. Using altimeter data from the Mars Global Surveyor and special graphics software, a father and daughter have found the circular outlines of the Red Planet’s earliest impact craters and basins – pounded into what remains of the planet’s first crust. Planetary geologist Herb Frey of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and his daughter Erin Frey, a junior at South River High School, in Edgewater, Md., will be explaining their discoveries in two consecutive presentations at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America on Sunday, October 27, in Denver, CO. In both studies Mar Orbiting Laser Altimeter data was loaded into a graphics program that allowed colors to be assigned to different elevations. By manually shifting and stretching the colors to study various ranges of elevation change, they were able to detect very subtle quasi-circular depressions, or “QCDs” for short. The Freys contend that these are craters from early times before the Noachian (pronounced “no-ACK-ee-en”) — the name for the oldest identified geological time period on Mars.
October 25th, 2002