The two Mars Exploration Rovers have both seen their fair share of craters in their five years on Mars. Opportunity is currently booking it across Meridiani Planum on her way to Endeavour Crater, an ancient, huge hole in the ground (22 kilometers (13.7 miles across). But recently she came across the youngest crater either rover has ever seen. This crater is “young,” in relative terms; scientists say this small crater called “Resolution” formed sometime in the past 100,000 years. Most features studied by Opportunity are much older, including rocks over 3 billion years old. In contrast to these seniors, Resolution is just a baby.
Unlike a baby’s soft skin, a newborn crater starts out sharp, and only softens over time. As craters age, the “sandblasting” action of the Martian wind erodes rocks ejected during crater formation and fills its bowl with sand. Signs of this crater’s youth are fresh rocks on the crater rim and an empty bowl. The newer crater also drapes over older surrounding dunes. Finding youth pays off: scientists can compare Resolution to older craters to learn how fast wind changes the Martian surface over time.
In other rover news, Spirit has received a boost of power from a wind cleaning event. Rover driver Scott Maxwell shared via Twitter that Spirit’s current energy output is up to 371 watts/hour per sol. This is up from less than 250watts/hour in January. Maxwell said Spirit’s solar panels are the cleanest they’ve been in 550 sols. That’s good news, because Spirit needs all the energy she can get, with trying to battle some recent issues with memory problems.
The image above is Spirit’s current view, with a mound in the upper left called “Von Braun” that is the rover’s possible investigation site in future months. From the location where Spirit was when the image was taken, Von Braun is about 160 meters (525 feet) away.
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