Varanasi Physicist and UP, Bihar Towns Inspire Names For Mars Craters

Varanasi Physicist and UP, Bihar Towns Inspire Names For Mars Craters

Varanasi Physicist and UP, Bihar Towns Inspire Names For Mars Craters

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Anil Bhardwaj, the director of PRL, informed a news agency that although the discovery was made by a PRL research team two years ago, it was only this month that the International Astronomical Union’s working group for Planetary System Nomenclature officially approved the names Lal, Mursan and Hilsa for the craters.

14 June 2024

By Sukhmani Kooner 

The three recently discovered craters on Mars, named Lal, Mursan and Hilsa by the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad, suggest the red planet’s history of water presence. Lal honours the renowned cosmic ray physicist Professor Devendra Lal from Varanasi. The remaining two craters are named after locations on Earth: Mursan, after a town in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, and Hilsa, after a town in Nalanda district, Bihar.

Anil Bhardwaj, the director of PRL, informed TOI that although the discovery was made by a PRL research team two years ago, it was only this month that the International Astronomical Union’s working group for Planetary System Nomenclature officially approved the names Lal, Mursan and Hilsa for the craters.

According to Bhardwaj, the naming of the craters follows international guidelines. These guidelines dictate that smaller craters should be named after small towns, while larger ones should be named after distinguished personalities. Lal, who significantly contributed to earth and planetary science, notably served as the director of PRL from 1972 to 1983.

The craters are situated within the Tharsis volcanic region, an expansive volcanic plateau located near the equator in the western hemisphere of Mars.

The Tharsis volcanic region hosts the largest volcanoes in the solar system. Among them, ‘Lal’ stands out as the largest crater, spanning approximately 65 kilometres. While it is predominantly covered with lava, geophysical data reveals the presence of materials other than lava, including a sedimentary deposit measuring around 45 metres thick in the subsurface. This discovery strongly indicates the movement of water, which has transported significant amounts of sediment into the crater. Additionally, the presence of two smaller craters, ‘Mursan’ and ‘Hilsa’, positioned on either side of ‘Lal’, offers a timeline for the infilling process of the larger crater.

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