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Splat! This Is What a Crater on Mars Looks Like

Image: Mars impact
A fresh impact crater and the debris thrown out by the impact dominate this picture from Mars, captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013, and unveiled on Wednesday. NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Ariz.

Something hit Mars sometime in the past couple of years, and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was there to see the mess it made.

This image of a fresh impact crater was captured by the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, on Nov. 19, 2013. The mission's science team ordered up the picture because a different camera on the orbiter, known as the Context Camera, recorded a change in the terrain between July 2010 and May 2012. The impact, perhaps involving a meteorite, must have happened sometime between those dates.

The crater itself is only about 100 feet (30 meters) across, but the dusty debris that's splattered around the crater spreads out as far as 9.3 miles (15 kilometers). The disturbed material has a bluish tinge because the colors in the picture have been "stretched" to highlight subtle differences in composition. It's thought that hundreds of impacts leave impressions on Mars every year — but not many of them are as impressive as this one.