NASA’s InSight lander has discovered a meteorite impacting the surface of Mars. This is the first time the space agency has detected both seismic and sound waves from an impact on Mars. Researchers shared the findings about the new pits in a study published in natural earth sciences. Insight landed on the red planet in 2018 and since then is the first time it has been hit by waves.
The meteorite fell from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometers) from the InSight site on Mars’ Elysium Planitia, according to the study. It hit Mars’ atmosphere on September 5, 2021, and exploded into three fragments, each one leaving behind a crater on the Red Planet’s surface.
The researchers used observations from NASA’s Mars Exploration Orbiter in space to confirm the crater locations. “These seismic measurements give us an entirely new tool for exploring Mars or any other planet that we can reach with a seismometer,” planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator for the Insight mission told Reuters.
NASA also released a recording of a meteorite impact on Mars on Monday. In the sound, you hear three “hit” that represent distinct moments from the collision: the meteor enters the Martian atmosphere, explodes into pieces, and smashes into the Earth. The strange sound results from an atmospheric effect also observed in deserts on Earth, where low pitched sounds arrive before high pitched ones.
“We can correlate the type, location, and size of a known source to what the seismic signal looks like,” said Brown University planetary scientist Ingrid Dauber, co-author of the study. “We can apply this information to better understand InSight’s entire catalog of seismic monitoring events, and use the results on other planets and moons as well. “.
The researchers believe that the seismic signature of such impacts has now been discovered, and they expect to find more in InSight data, since 2018, according to Reuters.
The three-legged InSight rover — its acronym for Inland Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Thermal Transport — touched down in 2018 on a vast, relatively flat plain north of the Martian equator called Elysium Planitia.
“The moon is also a target for future meteorite impact detection,” said planetary scientist and study lead author Rafael Garcia of the ISAE-SUPAERO Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Toulouse.
“And it may be the same sensors that will do that, because InSight’s backup sensors are currently built into the Farside Seismic Suite instrument for a trip to the Moon in 2025,” Garcia added, referring to an instrument slated to be placed near the lunar south pole on the side of the moon facing visibly. Permanently off the ground.
Mars’ atmosphere is more than twice as likely to be hit by a meteorite as Earth is – the name given to a space rock before it hits the surface. However, the Earth’s atmosphere is much thicker than what protects the planet.
“Meteorites typically disintegrate and disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere, forming fireballs that rarely reach the surface to form a crater. Compared to Mars, hundreds of impact craters form somewhere on the planet’s surface each year,” Daubar said.
Mars’ atmosphere is only about 1 percent thicker than Earth’s. The asteroid belt, an abundant source of space rock, lies between Mars and Jupiter.
InSight’s specific science goals prior to the mission were to investigate the internal structure and processes of Mars, as well as study seismic activity and meteorite impacts.
InSight’s seismograph has proven that Mars is seismically active, detecting more than 1,300 swamps. In a paper published last year, seismic waves detected by InSight helped decipher the internal structure of Mars, including first estimates of the size of its massive liquid metal core, the thickness of its crust, and the nature of its atmosphere.