A NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars has found a new gigantic crater on the surface of the Red Planet.
The crater is the largest new impact site ever seen on Mars with orbiter photos, according to The Huffington Post.
Photos of the crater were taken after it appeared suddenly in March 2012. They were taken by the space agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
The crater stretches half the length of a football field, and measures out to be 159 by 143 feet, The Economic Times reported.
"The biggest crater is unusual, quite shallow compared to other fresh craters we have observed," said Alfred McEwen, principal investigator for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) of the University of Arizona.
NASA officials said a large asteroid impact, similar to the meteor explosion that occurred in Chelyabinsk, Russia last year, could have likely created the crater. The impact in Russia shattered windows, caused damage to hundreds of buildings and injured over 1,000 people, The Huffington Post reported.
The Red Planet's new crater was found by Bruce Cantor, a scientist with Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS), almost two months ago. While Cantor was looking for dust storms and other weather events, he found a dark spot uncommon on Mars. He took images of the spot with the Mars Color Imager (MARCI), a weather-monitoring camera made by MSSS on board the MRO.
"It wasn't what I was looking for," Cantor said. "I was doing my usual weather monitoring and something caught my eye. It looked usual, with rays emanating from a central spot."
Cantor studied earlier images, skipping back months to find that the spot existed a year ago, The Economic Times reported.
He then checked images from 40 different dates and was able to pinpoint the date the impact took place. The spot was not present through March 27, 2012, but appeared before the imaging on March 28.
McEwen estimated that the crater was likely created from an object that was 10 to 18 feet long, which is less than a third of the asteroid that landed near Chelyabinsk's size, The Huffington Post reported.
However, the atmosphere of Red Planet is much thinner than Earth's, which makes Mars more vulnerable to strikes from asteroids. A study released last year discovered that Mars likely gets hit with over 200 asteroids every year.