Mars, like any other rocky world, has its fair share of craters. These scars of ancient impacts give the dusty surface of the planet some serious personality, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that new craters can happen right before our eyes. That’s exactly what seems to have occurred, and a new image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter reveals a brand new impact site that might only be a few months old.
The image, which was captured by the HiRISE camera built into the orbiter, shows a bold dark patch of material surrounding a circular crater on the Martian surface. Researchers believe it might have been created as recently as February 2019.
The University of Arizona posted the photo, along with the following caption:
An impressionist painting? No, it’s a new impact crater that has appeared on the surface of Mars, formed at most between September 2016 and February 2019. What makes this stand out is the darker material exposed beneath the reddish dust.
The photo itself was captured in April and is only just now getting the attention it deserves. However, because the orbiter can’t be looking at the entire planet at all times, it’s unclear when exactly the crater formed, and researchers can only narrow it down to sometime between September 2016 and February 2019.
This is yet another great reminder of the fantastic work NASA’s Mars orbiter has been doing for years now. The spacecraft originally launched way back in 2005 and arrived at Mars in March of the following year. When it did, its primary mission was only scheduled to last for two years, but it has since put in over 13 years of faithful service for scientists. As long as it keeps producing images like this one, we hope it keeps going for a long time to come.