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On 20 March 2014, a dark spot on the surface Mars, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) in diameter was seen for the first time in low-resolution (approximately 1 kilometer) imaging from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Because MARCI sees essentially the whole planet every day, the sudden appearance of a dark spot was of note.
To follow up, the Context Camera (CTX) obtained a high resolution picture of the area in question in early April. Before and after imaging revealed two new large impact craters within the blast zone. At 6 meters per pixel, CTX can detect the dark blast locations but usually cannot resolve the crater that formed the blast, because most fresh impact craters are only a few meters across.
This is where the high resolution of HiRISE comes in: our camera was able to show the fine surface details within the blast zone. The largest of the new craters, appears slightly asymmetric in shape, and measures 159 x 143 feet (48.5 x 43.5 meters) in diameter, making it the largest new crater detected on Mars by MRO to date. Both HiRISE and CTX images also show numerous, new, small landslides within the blast zone.
All of these coordinated observations also demonstrate how different teams on the same spacecraft can work together to examine interesting features in greater detail.
See more images at JPL News Release 2014-162.
HiRISE is one of six instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.