Dramatic new crater appears on Mars

Looks like a bomb went off. A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013. Click to enlarge. Credit: NASA

NASA released this awesome photo today of a fresh hole punched in Mars by an incoming meteoroid. Pictures of the same region before July 2010 show no such impact. But when the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter swung around to re-photograph the same region in May 2012. Voila! A brand new crater about 100 feet across (30 meters) appeared as if by magic.

No magic was needed of course because the solar system still resembles the Wild West with enough debris flying around to still make us wonder when it’ll be our turn.

This particular photo was made on Nov. 19, 2013 at higher resolution and shows debris tossed in a splat pattern up to 9.3 miles from the impact. If you examine the image closely, especially the high resolution version, you’ll notice that radial sprays of dust and boulders spreads across a large field of sand dunes on the left and lower right.

The rays appear blue because the color has been enhanced to show how the the freshly-excavated debris (blue-gray) has covered up the red dust that was present before the impact.

Mars’ atmosphere is so thin that space rocks are more likely to make it to the surface than on Earth. This photo shows how a meteoroid broke into pieces due to atmospheric friction to create a small crater field on Mars. The view is 600 feet (180 meters) across. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/UA

Lots of rocks hit Mars. Because its atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s, crater-making meteorites are more common, occurring at the rate of about 200 per year. Few, however, make a splat as gorgeous as this one.

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

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