In May 2012, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s low-resolution Context Camera spotted something different in the Martian landscape — a fresh impact crater. On comparison with earlier imagery of the same location near the planet’s equator, mission scientists have been able to determine that this is evidence of a very recent impact event, which occurred some time between July 2010 and May 2012.
As the MRO passed over the same region on Nov. 19, 2013, the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera was trained on the location to capture this beautiful high-resolution view.
The crater is one of an estimated 200 meteorite impacts that Mars receives per year and this one is certainly one of the most striking. It appears to be a single meteorite that slammed into the Martian surface, carving out a 30 meter-wide crater and blasting material as far as 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) away.
Mars supports a significantly thinner atmosphere than Earth, and will therefore be less effective at burning up smaller asteroids as they enter the atmosphere as meteorites. The impact ejecta will therefore be thrown over a wider area than if the impact occurred on Earth. Although there are slow weather-driven erosion processes on Mars, countless impact craters scar the planet, signs of a violent relationship with its interplanetary environment.