The landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover had created dark blast zone on the Martian surface. Now the researchers have observed that the zone has faded, however, not consistently. The scars have been observed multiple times over the past two years, with the help of High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). HiRISE is among the six instruments used by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to study Mars since 2006. Researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have revealed that some of the scars have faded while some have darkened again.
HiRISE team scientist Ingrid Daubar informed that dark blast zones are created when spacecrafts like Curiosity land, blowing away bright dust. She added “We expected to see them fade as the wind moved the dust around during the months and years after landing, but we’ve been surprised to see that the rate of change doesn’t appear to be consistent.”
In August 2012, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity landed on Gale Crater in a dramatic fashion. On reaching the final stages of descent, the rover’s sky crane (rocket-powered landing platform) lit up, blasting the dusty surface of Mars. It also etched darkened scars there before detaching itself from the rover and flying away.
These observations will be helpful for the space agency for its next Mars mission, InSight, which will be launched in 2016. The InSight lander will have a probe for measuring the heat in the crust of the planet. Thus the scientists believe that understanding such darkening of the surface is important. Darker surfaces absorb more light and the brighter ones reflect more, leading to less heating.