"Magnificent" Mars Crater
Lines of ancient material ejected by a meteorite radiate outward from Mars's Bacolor Crater, a 12-mile-wide (20-kilometer-wide) pit on the surface of the red planet.
The picture of the "magnificent" crater is a combination of photos taken between 2002 and 2005 by the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) instrument on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter, which became the longest-working spacecraft in Mars's history this week, according to NASA.
December 15 marked the 3,340th day—or nearly ten years—since the spacecraft had entered Mars's orbit on October 24, 2001. Odyssey broke the record previously set by the Mars Global Surveyor, which operated from September 11, 1997, to November 2, 2006. (See photos: "Mars Probe Lost in Space?")
The spacecraft's most famous discovery to date—evidence for copious amounts of water ice lurking just below the dry Martian surface—was also one of its first, said Mars Odyssey project scientist Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"That was very satisfying, because it was one of the key goals of the mission," Plaut said.
Seven Great Mars Pictures From Record-Breaking Probe
See highlights from the ten-year career of NASA's Mars Odyssey, which this week became the longest-working craft to study the planet.