The Red Crater Clock

In the dust of Mars,
scars settle –
ancient wounds in bloodied soil.
Sky-stones from the dark void
claim their ground,
pounding withered land:

An ear to the planet’s chest
hears every thud –
the aftershocks
of abyssal assault.
Beneath the crust,
the arteries hum:

The diary’s pages
turned crimson –
numbers carved in silence,
rock against rock.
An aria to the
ceaseless crash
of heaven’s hammer
upon the barren seas:

This poem is inspired by recent research, which has found that meteorite impact rate on Mars can help date planetary surfaces.

Scientists often determine the age of a planetary surface by examining the number of impact craters. This method relies on understanding how frequently craters of different sizes are formed. On Mars, there has been a discrepancy between the estimated rates of small crater formation, derived from both orbital imagery and extrapolated lunar data. These estimates do not align, creating uncertainty in the accurate dating of Mars’ surface features.

Recent research has provided a fresh perspective by analysing seismic events recorded by NASA’s InSight lander. Some of these seismic events, previously confirmed as impacts, belong to a broader category of very high frequency marsquakes. Although not every event can be conclusively attributed to impacts, the researchers suggest that this class is likely caused by meteorite strikes. By converting seismic data to crater sizes using an empirical scaling relationship, they estimated that 280-360 craters larger than 8 metres in diameter form on Mars each year. This rate is consistent with some existing models and higher than rates based on new crater imagery. This study demonstrates that seismology offers a more direct way of measuring meteorite impact rates and could help scientists date planetary surfaces across the Solar System more accurately.

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