The planet Mars is not easily smashed, but if it does, the result is practically a work of art. A new impact crater discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in April is unlike anything astronomers have ever seen.
The black-and-blue mark, which is notable for both its size and its impact waves, stands out like a sore thumb from the red, dusty surface of the planet.
The dramatic scene with enhanced colors shown below was captured using NASA's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera, orbiting 255 kilometers away.
19659003] Every year, Mars is bombarded by more than 200 asteroids and comets, and while some of them are similarly dark spots or leave behind other notable features, the planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, Veronica Bray, said that this new crater is one of the most impressive she has seen.
In the thirteen years that the MRO has observed Mars, few events have been compared. While the actual space rock fragment appears to be about 1.5 meters wide, the crater itself is much larger, about 15 to 16 feet wide.
Such a small offender would probably have done so. Burned or eroded in the much thicker earth atmosphere. Even on Mars, these incoming stones can often shatter as they enter and form crater chains – like a machine gun striking the surface of the planet.
In this case, however, the rock must have been firmer than usual, as it has managed to strike a spot in the Valles Marineris region, which is near the Martian equator.
"What makes this booth stand out is the darker material exposed under the reddish dust," explains the announcement on the HiRISE website.
In fact, the impact wave is clearly visible. This is the dark zone in the middle of the picture where dust has been pushed aside to expose the underlying rocky surface.
The exact nature of geography in this region is still uncertain, but Bray says that the underlying surface is likely to be basalt. And the blue in the picture, she adds, is probably also a piece of ice hidden under the dust.
KABOOM! Before and after pictures of a meteorite forming a brand new impact crater on Mars. Sometime between February 18, 2017 and March 20, 2019. pic.twitter.com/TWXtUoP5NA
– Peter Grindrod (@Peter_Grindrod) June 12, 2019
During the exact time of the strike is unknown, astronomers believe it was probably made sometime between September 2016 and February 2019.