High-resolution images released today by the European Space Agency reveal new details about an unusually elongated crater on Mars that may have been blasted by several objects striking the planet's surface at a shallow angle. The unnamed crater, located in a heavily blemished portion of the Red Planet's southern hemisphere, is about 78 kilometers long, approximately 25 kilometers across at its widest point, and about 2 kilometers deep. Two distinct blankets of material blasted from the impact zone suggest that at least two projectiles, possibly fragments of a once-intact body, gouged the crater. Three particularly deep spots in the crater (depicted in blue, inset) bolster the notion of multiple impactors, as does the presence of another elongated crater nearby that has a similar alignment. Scientists first proposed in the early 1980s that elongated craters such as the ones seen on Mars could have been formed by pieces of a fractured object following the same trajectory. In 1994, more than 20 fragments of a comet slammed into Jupiter, providing dramatic proof that such events could happen.
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