Mars: Crater 'Before And After' Photograph Sets New Record

Astronomers have set a new record for the largest crater ever documented in a before-after photograph.

The new crater was spotted on the surface of Mars, and is at least half the size of a football pitch.

The crater first appeared in March 2012., and was created by an asteroid exploding in the Martian sky. It was found by researchers looking at pictures taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its weather camera, the Mars Color Imager.

Above: the new crater, which was created on March 27/28 2012

Scientists likened the impact to that seen above Chelyabinsk in Russia in 2013.

"I was doing my usual weather monitoring and something caught my eye. It looked usual, with rays emanating from a central spot," said Bruce Cantor from Malin Space Science Systems.

Subsequent photos have revealed that there are actually two main craters at the site, surrounded by dozens of smaller holes caused by the same asteroid. The impact or explosion sent clouds of debris across an area about 5 miles in diameter, which scientists can see in darkened slopes around the big crater.

Above: the before and after shot

Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, which means it is more vulnerable to strikes. Many of the rocks which would burn up miles above Earth end up striking the Red Planet and causing devastating impacts.