NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has been flying over the Red Planet for 13 years, beaming back more data on our planetary neighbor than any other mission sent to investigate the Martian landscape.
Launched in 2005, the MRO spacecraft has captured many photos of Mars, the latest of which was recently unveiled by NASA in the last day of May.
The exquisite MRO image reveals the Martian Hale Crater as you’ve never seen it before, with exposed bedrock outlined in splendid colors. Taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard the MRO, the photo shows a side of the Hale Crater that we rarely get to see in other footage of this impressive Martian feature.
According to NASA, the Hale Crater is a fascinating place worthy of exploration. This large impact crater stretches for more 62 miles (or 100 kilometers) across and displays a number of intriguing physical features. The colorful exposed rock seen in the new MRO image is just one of its many spectacular characteristics, which include a mountain of layered materials rising right in the middle of the crater.
Hale Crater also boasts “a suite of interesting features such as active gullies, active recurring slope lineae (long markings that are dark or bright) and extensive icy ejecta flows,” NASA officials wrote in the image description.
Located in the Argyre basin in the planet’s southern hemisphere, the Hale Crater lies in an ancient region with a “unique geological setting,” notes Space.com.
This massive basin is thought to contain a bounty of ingredients that suggest it could have harbored life in its distant past, even more so than the 96-mile-wide Gale Crater where NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover is currently performing its investigations.
As the Inquisitr reported in late April, the rover discovered Earth-like mud cracks on the bottom of Gale Crater, which revealed that it was filled with an ancient lake which dried up 3.5 billion years ago. Space.com argues that the Argyre basin, home of the Hale Crater, was even more abundant in water, citing a 2016 study that hails this region as the best place to look for signs of microbial life on Mars.
The recurring slope lineae seen on the surface of the Hale Crater, imaged by the MRO’s HiRISE camera in 2015 (NASA photo available here), added to the body of evidence that the crater was once covered in water.
At the time, NASA confirmed that the crater’s recurring linear streaks, which run almost the length of a football field, were caused “by seasonal flow of water on contemporary Mars.” Another instrument mounted on the MRO, namely the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer, unraveled that the slopes of Hale Crater are sprinkled with hydrated salts, which indicated that these features were “formed by briny liquid water,” the space agency conveyed at the time.
However, a more recent study, published in 2017, uncovered that the recurring slope lineae on hale Crater are actually due to landslides and represent dark flows of sand and dust, UPI reports.
As reported by the Inquisitr, another famous MRO photo released in early April by NASA showcased the dune gullies of one of Mars’ other well-known craters, the Matara Crater in Noachis Terra, north of the Argyre basin. Just like its neighbor, the Hale Crater also has spectacular gullies, displayed in an MRO photo that NASA released in 2009.