Mursan and Hilsa: Two new craters on Mars named after towns in UP, Bihar

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved naming these craters after the former PRL director and two small Indian towns.
Mursan and Hilsa: Two new craters on Mars named after towns in UP, Bihar
Source: PRL

In a significant contribution to planetary exploration, scientists from the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad, India, have discovered three previously unknown craters on Mars.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has approved naming these craters after the former PRL director and two small Indian towns.

The three craters, situated in the Tharsis volcanic region on Mars around 21.0°S, 209°W, have been officially designated as Lal crater, Mursan crater and Hilsa crater.

Lal Crater

A 65 km wide crater, centered at -20.98°, 209.34°, has been named "Lal Crater" in honour of renowned Indian geophysicist and former PRL Director, Prof. Devendra Lal, who led the institution from 1972 to 1983.

Professor Devendra Lal was a cosmic ray physicist and an Earth and planetary scientist known for the diversity and creativity of his research interests. He worked on the composition and energy spectrum of primary cosmic radiation as well as nuclear tracks and radioactivity in lunar samples and meteorites.

Mursan Crater

A smaller 10 km wide crater, superimposed on the eastern rim of Lal Crater, has been named "Mursan Crater" after a town in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Hilsa Crater

Another 10 km wide crater, overlapping the western rim of Lal Crater, has been christened "Hilsa Crater," taking its name from a town in Bihar, India.

Mursan was chosen as the name because it is the birthplace of PRL's current director, Dr. Anil Bharadwaj, a renowned planetary scientist. Hilsa, meanwhile, is the birthplace of Dr. Rajeev Ranjan Bharti, a PRL scientist who was part of the team that discovered these new craters on Mars.

The discovery of these craters holds profound scientific importance. The entire area of Lal Crater is covered in lava, but subsurface radar data from NASA's SHARAD instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed a 45-meter thick sedimentary deposit beneath the crater floor.

This finding provides compelling evidence that water once flowed on the Martian surface, transporting and depositing vast amounts of sediment into what is now known as Lal Crater.

The two smaller craters, Mursan and Hilsa, offer insights into the episodic nature and timeline of this infilling process.

"This discovery confirms that Mars was once wet and water has flown on the surface," said Dr. Anil Bhardwaj, Director of PRL. "It is a significant step in unraveling the planet's geological history and potential for harbouring life."

The PRL team's findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal, and the crater names have been officially recognized by the IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature.

Source: India Today

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