Martian Avalanche Triggered By A Crashing Meteoroid Captured In A New Photo From NASA’s Mars Orbiter

Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterNASA / JPL / University of Arizona

Just weeks after unveiling a spectacular new photo of the Hale Crater and its colorful exposed bedrock, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has beamed back a great new image of the Martian landscape.

This new snapshot is particularly dynamic and reveals a dust avalanche on Mars’ surface caused by a crashing meteoroid that slammed into the Red Planet around 10 years ago.

According to NASA, when the meteoroid came tumbling down and hit the Martian surface, its explosion destabilized the sandy slope, triggering the landslide captured in the photo.

The violent encounter with the meteoroid left behind an impact crater, from which the landslide comes streaking down the slope, exposing the darker material beneath the Martian sand.

“Slope streaks are created when dry dust avalanches leave behind dark swaths on dusty Martian hills,” NASA officials wrote in the image description.

Released on June 15, the new MRO photo was taken by the spacecraft’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).

As the Inquisitr reported on the occasion of the previous MRO photo release, the orbiter is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Meanwhile, the HiRISE camera mounted on the spacecraft, which also captured the Hale Crater view released at the beginning of June, is operated by the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

MRO photo meteoroid impact
Wider-angle view of the impact crater captured by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument and the resulting dark streak. Featured image credit: Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterNASA/JPL/University of Arizona

The image above unveils the meteoroid impact crater and subsequent slope streak from a wider angle to offer a better sense of the size of the two features.

While the impact crater has a diameter of only five meters (16.4 feet), the long streak that trails downward from it in the MRO snapshot measures one kilometer (0.62 mile) in length, notes the space agency.

As a side note, the LPL points out that the image cutouts have been rotated, so the planet’s north is positioned downward in the MRO photo.

The University of Arizona has also released a closer view of the impact crater, which captures the remains of the meteoroid explosion in greater detail.

Close-up of the crater captured by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument.
Close-up of the crater captured by the MRO’s HiRISE instrument. Featured image credit: Mars Reconnaissance OrbiterNASA/JPL/University of Arizona

As an added bonus, the HiRISE camera has managed to snag yet another detail — the trail of a second landslide occurred way before this fresh one.

“The faded scar of an old avalanche is also visible to the side of the new dark streak,” NASA shows in the photo release.

The MRO has been orbiting Mars since 2006 and, although it was originally slated to only run a two-year mission, it has remained operational for over a decade, sending back a wealth of data on the Red Planet.

Universe Today notes that the spacecraft could keep on surveilling the planet with its advanced scientific instruments well into the 2030s and will probably stay in orbit until it runs out of fuel.