A recently published image taken by HiRISE, onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown a new feature on the Martian landscape.
Apparently, the big impact crater was caused by the impact of a meteorite that crashed in the south pole of the red planet, reports the lunar and planetary laboratory of the University of Arizona (USA).
As noted by the University of Arizona, “the impact hit on the ice layer, and the tones of the blast pattern tell us the sequence.”
The images of the crater were photographed by HiRISE, the most powerful high-resolution camera that has been sent to another planet and that provides materials with an incredible level of detail. HiRISE or, the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The 65 kg, $40 million USD instrument was built under the direction of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
Based on the data from the photographs, it has been determined that the impact in the area occurred between July and September of last year.
The pattern of the color tones would reveal characteristics of the force of the impact, which pierced the ice sheet of the season, excavated the lower darker Martian soil sand and ejected it in all directions on top of the layer, leaving behind a very recognizable pattern.
Such impacts aren’t that uncommon on Mars. As noted by earlier studies, the red planet is impacted by more than 200 asteroids each year.
This number was obtained from a study of 248 Martian craters that astronomers identified in the past decade, thanks to images captured of the Martian Surface by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its HiRISE instrument.
The image below shows the newly-formed impact crater in context.
“When an impactor hits the ground, there is a tremendous amount of force like an explosion,” said HiRISE co-investigator, Ross Beyer, speaking about the impact.
“The larger, light-colored blast pattern could be the result of scouring winds by the impact shockwave.”
“The darker inner blast pattern is because the impactor penetrated the thin ice layer, excavating the sand underneath and threw it out in a direction,” Beyer explained.
Managed by scientists from the University of Arizona, the powerful HiRISE camera is just one of six instruments onboard the MRO currently orbiting Mars.