A fresh Martian crater has been detected in a stunning new image taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Using its High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), the spacecraft photographed the new feature on April 17, 2019 from an altitude of 255 kilometers (158 miles), according to a HiRise press release. The crater is located in the Valles Marineris region near the equator, and it formed at some point between September 2016 and February 2019. We can’t yet monitor the entire Martian surface at shorter intervals, hence the uncertainty as to when it formed.
The HiRise release described the new photo as a “work of art,” saying “the darker material exposed beneath the reddish dust” is what makes this particular crater stand out. The bluish areas in the false-color image above show areas in which the red surface material was most disrupted by the impact.
HiRISE team member and University of Arizona staff scientist Veronica Bray told Space.com that the crater is about 15 to 16 meters (49 to 53 feet) wide. The dark splotch created by the impact is around 500 meters wide (1,640 feet). Bray estimated the size of the meteorite at around 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. This chunk of space rock probably wouldn’t have survived the journey through Earth’s thicker atmosphere, she said, but the rock was likely quite solid, as there’s no evidence it broke up into smaller pieces during atmospheric entry. The impact may have exposed basaltic rock from beneath the Martian surface, but it’s not clear if the impact churned up subterranean ice, she told Space.com.