Pit craters are found on solid bodies throughout our Solar System, including Earth, Venus, the Moon, and Mars. These craters – which are not formed by impacts — can be indications of underground lava tubes, which are created when the top of a stream of molten rock solidifies and the lava inside drains away, leaving a hollow tube of rock. If a portion of the roof of the tube is unsupported, parts of it may fall in, making a hole or a pit along the lava tube’s path.Continue reading “The Tharsis Region of Mars is Peppered With These Strange Pit Craters. Now They’ve Been Found Elsewhere”
From orbit, this landscape on Mars looks like a lacy honeycomb or a spider web. But the unusual polygon-shaped features aren’t created by Martian bees or spiders; they are actually formed from a ongoing process of seasonal change from created from water ice and carbon dioxide.Continue reading “This Bizarre Terrain on Mars is Caused by Water Ice and Carbon Dioxide”
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Changes are always taking place on Mars, from factors like seasonal variations and wind. But there’s one other aspect that changes the surface of Mar quite often: impacts.
Here’s a new impact crater that was seen by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Exactly when the crater formed is not known, but this image was taken on July 24, 2020 and in a previous image of this site taken in 2018, the crater is not there.Continue reading “This Crater on Mars is Just a Couple of Years Old”
For decades, scientists have observed dark landslides called slope streaks on Mars. First seen by the Viking orbiters in the 1970s, every orbiter mission since has observed them, but the mechanism behind the slope streaks has been hotly debated: could they be caused by water activity on the Red Planet, or are they the result of some sort of dry mechanics?
Turns out, the leading candidate is “dry.” But scientists with the Mars Odyssey mission have verified an additional culprit behind the slope streaks: carbon dioxide frost.Continue reading “This is a Dust Avalanche on Mars”
Most impact craters are usually circular and fairly symmetric, but not all. This odd-shaped crater on Mars is obviously an impact crater, but it has a unique oblong shape. What happened?Continue reading “Here’s Something Rare: a Martian Crater That isn’t a Circle. What Happened?”
Missions to Mars are expensive, even orbiters. They’re there to do science, not take pretty pictures. But sometimes Mars’ beauty is captured inadvertently, usually with some science mixed in.
That’s the case with this picture of star dunes captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.Continue reading “These are Star Dunes on Mars, Formed When the Wind Comes From Many Different Directions”
China’s Tianwen-1 lander and Zhurong rover touched down on the Martian plain Utopia Planitia on May 14, 2021 after spending about three months orbiting the Red Planet. While the Chinese Space Agency has shared images of the rover and lander (including a cute family portrait taken by a wireless remote camera), NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been following the rover’s travels from above.Continue reading “Mars Orbiter Captures Images of China’s Rover From Space”
Nothing says springtime on Mars like defrosting dunes.Continue reading “It’s Springtime on Mars, and the Dunes are Defrosting”
If we’ve learned anything about Mars the past 2-3 decades from the various rovers, landers and orbiters we’ve sent to the Red Planet, it’s that the planet’s geologic history is much more complicated and diverse than what we thought.
This picture from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows fractured sedimentary rock inside a crater called Danielson. Sedimentary rock is a sure sign that this planet was active in the past. The fracturing, layering and terrace-like structures suggests a long-term watery history in this region.Continue reading “Strange Terraces on Mars are a Clear Signal of Sedimentary Rock”
The HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured another beauty. This time the image shows water ice peeking out from a cliffside on Mars. A layer of sediment obscures most of the ice, but fingers of it are visible.Continue reading “Ice Peeks out of a Cliffside on Mars”