Blue crater on the Martian surface wows astronomers

Mars' blue crater
The crater is about 16m across. Photo credit: NASA

A stunning blue crater has been discovered on the surface of Mars.

The 16m-wide pockmark was photographed by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in April, using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

The stunning image shows streaks of grey exploding from the impact site, one side glowing blue.

"That has not yet been confirmed, but commonly, when a HiRISE image of a new impact shows a blue area, it is sometimes water ice," HiRISE team member Veronica Bray told CNN.

It's not clear when the crater was formed. The orbiter can't cover the whole planet at once, so NASA's best estimate is it was formed somewhere between September 2016 and February 2019, by a meteorite about 1.5m across.

A rock that size wouldn't have made it to Earth's surface, burning up in our much thicker atmosphere.

"It's a gorgeous [crater]," Bray told space.com.

Whether it's ice or not will be hard to determine, as the instrument onboard that measures that kind of thing is well past its use-by date. The orbiter was launched in 2005, and only expected to function for two years once in orbit around Mars.

NASA's next Mars mission, tentatively titled Mars 2020, is expected to include a drone that will launch from the space agency's next rover.

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