See how Mars cleans up the mess from an impact crater

This crater appeared on Mars sometime between late 2007 and mid-2010. It looks very different today.


It’s not easy being Mars. The planet regularly absorbs the impact of incoming space rocks that leave behind telltale craters and dark, landscape-altering blast zones. But Mars also has a way of cleaning up, as a new NASA GIF shows.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter HiRise camera team at the University of Arizona put together an animation of Mars images taken 10 years apart. It shows what a decade can do to a fresh impact crater’s blast zone. 

The MRO HiRise camera first snapped this crater in 2010 where it shows a dark ejecta zone. A second image from late 2019 shows how dust erased the markings.


Previous images showed the impact crater and its dark ejecta zone traced back to somewhere between 2007 and 2010. HiRise took a close look in mid-2010 and then snapped a follow-up view in December 2019 that showed how lighter-colored dust has covered the crater’s tracks.

The crater itself, which is about 20 feet (6.3 meters) across, is still easily visible even though the temporary tattoo of the blast zone is wiped away. 

This observation tells a story of Mars dust and how winds and other natural processes are active on the planet. It’s one more way Mars has a kinship with Earth despite the planets’ extreme differences.

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