NASA Photos: High-Resolution Image Captures New Martian Crater

By Ben Wolford on February 7, 2014 1:46 PM EST

Martian Crater
NASA released a new photo of a relatively fresh Martian crater. It's rare to see such a recent impact crater in such high resolution. (Photo: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

NASA has released a new high-resolution image of a relatively recent impact crater on Mars, revealing with striking clarity what a fresh asteroid scar looks like.

The picture was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, which is a camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, launched in 2005 on a two-year mission. HiRISE took the picture at about 3 p.m. (Mars time) on Nov. 19, according to the University of Arizona web page that hosts the images. The project scientists released the photo Wednesday.

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The scientists estimate the crater was formed sometime between July 2010 and May 2012. "Our image shows a large, rayed blast zone and far-flung secondary material around an approximately 30 meter-diameter crater, indicating a large explosion threw debris as far as 15 kilometers in distance," NASA officials wrote. "Because the terrain where the crater formed is dusty, the fresh crater appears blue in the enhanced color due to the lack of reddish dust."

The goal of the HiRISE program is to capture the most detailed pictures of Mars ever taken. Using these images, scientists can create 3-D recreations of terrain, find never-before-seen features (including water, according to Space.com), and scout for potential landing sites for spacecraft. "Scientists all over the world are already using these images to understand many previously-unexplained phenomena on the Red Planet," according to HiRISE. The camera is so sensitive, it can capture 30 centimeters per pixel from 186 miles above the surface of Mars.

"By examining the distribution of ejecta around the crater, scientists can learn more about the impact event," NASA wrote of the recent crater discovery. That's potentially useful here on Earth, where asteroid impacts are a growing concern among former astronauts and the United Nations.

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