Our Solar System is alive and teeming with objects. From stray comets visiting Earth's reaches once every few hundred years to the log-jammed, bubbling Kuiper belt circling 30 AU outside of Neptune, the grand design of our moving universe hasn't stopped merely for humanity's pleasure.
The latest evidence of this orbital entropy has been observed by NASA's HiRISE camera snapping orbital shots from onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). An image taken by HiRISE on November 27 2016 shows a dramatic looking impact crater and charred blast zone. The impact is thought to have occurred sometime between January 2014 and August 2016.
The crater (seen here in black and white), most likely from a small asteroid, measures four meters in diameter according to NASA, and will form part of the HiRISE team's 'impact processes' research. And important research it is, too. Not just an awe-inspiring sight, craters can help scientists estimate the ages of terrains, look for signs of ground ice, and even provide information about atmospheric density.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been in orbit around Mars since 2006, and in 2013, scientists on the HiRISE team estimated that Mars gets blasted by more than 200 small asteroids or comet fragments every year. Earth is similarly bombarded by extra-terrestrial rock and ice junk, but the small pieces (usually no larger than two meters in diameter) are no match for our thicker atmosphere, which burns up the debris on entry. Our atmosphere protects us from even larger pieces too, like the meteor that burned bright over Russia back in February 2013.
But while Mars doesn't have the protection of a thick atmosphere, the very absence of one means that impacts from craters are preserved from billions of years ago, as they are not weathered by natural phenomena such as precipitation.
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