A meteoroid recently slammed into the side of a hillside on Mars, exploding on impact, destabilising the slope and triggering a long avalanche. The crater only measures about five meters (16 feet) across, but the avalanche left a dark trail of dry dust stretching a full kilometre (0.62 miles) down the side of a slope in a hilly region of the red planet. The image was captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment – HiRISE – aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.
A hundred days have passed since Mars was closest to Earth this year, but the Red Planet can still be seen in the early evening sky close to the jewel of the solar system, Saturn. If you wish to identify this pair of planets, then a convenient celestial marker in the form of the waxing crescent Moon passes by on the evenings of 8—9 September in the UK and Western Europe.
On the morning of Sunday, 22 May planet Mars reached opposition in the constellation of Scorpius and is closest to the Earth on 30 May — its best showing in a decade for Southern Hemisphere observers. As seen from the UK the Red Planet will be low in the south at 1am BST, but on nights of good seeing surface detail will be visible in amateur telescopes. Use our interactive Mars Mapper to identify its features.
Volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago, far from any ice sheet on the Red Planet today, new evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests. The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. Such an environment combining heat and moisture could have provided favourable conditions for microbial life.