Research Article

Present-Day Impact Cratering Rate and Contemporary Gully Activity on Mars

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Science  08 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5805, pp. 1573-1577
DOI: 10.1126/science.1135156

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The Mars Global Surveyor Mars Orbiter Camera has acquired data that establish the present-day impact cratering rate and document new deposits formed by downslope movement of material in mid-latitude gullies on Mars. Twenty impacts created craters 2 to 150 meters in diameter within an area of 21.5 × 106 square kilometers between May 1999 and March 2006. The values predicted by models that scale the lunar cratering rate to Mars are close to the observed rate, implying that surfaces devoid of craters are truly young and that as yet unrecognized processes of denudation must be operating. The new gully deposits, formed since August 1999, are light toned and exhibit attributes expected from emplacement aided by a fluid with the properties of liquid water: relatively long, extended, digitate distal and marginal branches, diversion around obstacles, and low relief. The observations suggest that liquid water flowed on the surface of Mars during the past decade.

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