NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Photographs an Avalanche Caused By a Meteor Strike
And the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a longstanding NASA probe orbiting around the Red Planet, recently took a picture of a particularly flashy impact crater with a long "tail" preceding it. That tail, called a slope streak, is essentially an avalanche brought on by the meteor strike.
See the MRO's photo below, and we'll go into some more detail afterward:
Bang & whoosh! When a meteoroid hit the surface of Mars & exploded to make this crater, it also destabilized the slope and initiated the avalanche seen here by our Mars orbiter. While the crater is only 5 meters across, the streak it started is 1 km long: https://t.co/mhZFdLISGw pic.twitter.com/mTkjKXTY12— NASA (@NASA) June 15, 2018
The MRO took this photo using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, or "HiRISE" for short. This is the same camera that most of the MRO's best-looking photos come from, although this one may not look as immediately flashy until you can see what exactly you're looking at.
That impact crater toward the top of the photo, only about 16.5 feet (5 meters) across, was naturally created by a meteor striking the Martian surface and exploding on impact - but in this case, the impact so heavily destabilized the slope it was on that an avalanche of Martian dust was triggered.
This avalanche left behind a dark streak in its wake, and this is what takes up the majority of the photo, as it's a whopping 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) long. While many craters on Mars may be extremely ancient, this one is fairly new and NASA dated the impact to some point within the last decade. Beyond that, you can also see traces of a much older avalanche nearby.
Let's hope no future Martian astronauts will have to deal with any fresh impacts like this one.