NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured images that provide evidence of a meteoroid crashing into Martian land and causing an avalanche.
Impact Crater On Mars
Using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera onboard MRO, the team of researchers at the Planetary Image Research Lab under the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, were able to take high-definition photos of an impact crater resulting from a meteoroid that fell on a hill on Mars a decade ago.
The impact resulted in a landslide, which can be seen leaving a long, dark streak flowing from the crater along the slope of the hill. The streak does not look any different from Recurring Slope Lineae, which were also discovered by HiRISE in 2011.
Scientists used to believe that RSL were the result of seasonal water flows. However, research by the US Geological Survey revealed that RSL were more likely to be the streaks of dry granular flows that occurred on Martian slopes beginning in the start of spring to late summer and disappearing during the Red Planet's harsh winter.
In the case of the recently photographed landslide, the impact of the meteoroid disturbed the dry dust on the surface of Mars, revealing darker swaths of soil underneath.
Landslide On The Red Planet
Scientists believe the meteoroid hit Mars 10 years ago. Meteoroids are small chunks of rock or metallic debris that may have broken off from comets or asteroids. Most meteoroids are small, in terms of cosmological sizes.
The meteoroid that landed on Mars a decade ago is believed to be minute by cosmological standards. At least, this is what scientists can glean from the impact crater spanning a diameter only 16 feet across.
The dark trail left behind by the succeeding landslide, however, is 1 kilometer, or 0.62 miles, long. The images also showed the faint traces of an older landslide, which can be seen to the left of the dark streak.
Future Of MRO
MRO locked into orbit around the Red Planet in 2006. The original mission was designed to last only two years, but the orbiter has been circling Mars and serving as a relay for other spacecraft studying the Martian landscape in the last 12 years.
Using a variety of cameras, radars, and spectrometers, MRO has been able to collect new information on Mars's geology, topography, and mineralogy. It is expected to serve as a relay to Mars 2020 when NASA's next rover mission launches in two years.