NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a high-resolution mapping telescope, captured a new crater in an image released Wednesday. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been monitoring the changing Martian landscape for nearly eight years, but this image of the new crater is one of the most dramatic scientists have ever discovered.
The new crater spans about 30 meters, or 100 feet, across and formed sometime between July 2010 and May 2012 per Space Flight Now. Researchers viewed the pictures from the orbiter’s context camera, a wide-angle imager used to complement MRO’s main mapping instrument, and noticed a new surface feature appearing in 2012 that was not there two years before.
Scientists enlisted MRO’s High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, to take a closer look at it. The camera is able to capture the sharpest views of Mars ever taken from orbit, and it turned its aperture toward the crater site to image the region on Nov. 19, 2013.
What they captured was a dazzling crater with ejecta rays extending outward in all directions up to 15 kilometers, or 9.3 miles, from the site of impact. It is still unknown what exactly carved the bowl-shaped pit in the Martian bedrock but it is certain it caused one of the biggest explosive events ever seen on Mars since spacecraft began visiting the red planet.
Alfred McEwen, HiRISE’s chief scientist at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, said the estimated 30-meter diameter of the new crater puts it among the largest recent impacts ever seen by the eagle-eyed camera.
Previously, the biggest crater found by HiRISE was 33.8 meters across, or about 111 feet in diameter.
“But this one is more spectacular looking with prominent dark rays,” says McEwen, a professor of planetary sciences. “Most new craters found are smaller than 10 meters (33 feet).”