Meteorite Impact Triggers Dust Avalanche on Mars

NASA captured astonishing views of Mars crater, caused by a small space rock crashing onto the planet and triggering a dust avalanche with its impact.

Likely caused by the meteorite impact within the last ten years, the new crater on Mars was spotted by NASA’s MRO, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter from the orbit, and the agency released relevant images on 15th June. 

The crater is around 16.5 feet (5 meters) across, with 1 km long streak that it started, as quoted by NASA officials. Officials also mentioned that these slope streaks get created by dust avalanches that leave behind dark swaths on the dusty Martian hills. Along the side of the new darker stripe, a faded scar from an old rockslide is also spotted. 

The collision of the meteorite caused destabilization of the slope that it collided with, thereby generating an avalanche of Martian dust, sand, and dirt. This avalanche left behind a dark streak, also known as slope streak, on the surface of the planet. And as pointed out by NASA, the impact of the crater may be tiny, but as seen in the image, the mark it left is massive. Also, the picture shows the scar from an old avalanche near to it. 

Long and dark streaks are not an uncommon sight on the surface of the planet, and researches also confirm that all these dark slope streaks are a result of dust avalanches.  

Meteorites are small pieces of rocks in the space, and when they enter the atmosphere, they flare up and called as meteors. Any part that reaches the surface is known as meteorites. The surface of the Red Planet is covered in dirt, dust, and granules, and the planet is well known to have storms and hit by meteorites.  

Scientists for years have investigated the origin of these marks. Initially, researches claimed that these dark streaks could be the result of the transient flow of briny water, somehow indicating that the planet is habitable, that may have been suspected. Researchers’ gauged subterranean water may have risen to the surface and caused the streaks. This conclusive theory was then supported when MRO was able to detect hydrated salts in such stripes on the planet. Many even had the opinion that seasonal carbon dioxide frosts have caused these streaks. Among all these, in a study published in the journal Nature Geoscience, last spring, indicated avalanches on the planet as the leading cause behind the streaks. 

Using High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), developed by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., of Boulder, Colorado and operated by University of Arizona, MRO took spectacular some new impact images of the crater. These are some of the most outstanding and detailed photographs taken by HiRISE till the date of the Martian surface.