Newly formed craters located on Mars by UMD geologist and the NASA InSight team

Newswise – An international team of researchers with NASA InSight mission Four new impact craters are located on the surface of Mars. Using data from the seismometer and images obtained from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the team succeeded in calculating and confirming the impact sites. This is the first time researchers have been able to capture the dynamics of a collision on Mars. The researchers’ findings were published on September 19, 2022 in the journal Natural Earth Sciences.

“Meteorites and other projectiles in space can alter the atmosphere and surface of any planet through collision,” the University of Maryland said. geology Assistant Professor Nicholas Schmer, co-author of the paper. “We’ve seen this on Earth, where these objects can rush through the atmosphere, crash into the ground and leave a crater behind. But before that, we’d never been able to capture the collision dynamics on Mars, where there is a much thinner atmosphere.”

When space projectiles enter the atmosphere of planets and impact Earth, the projectiles release sound waves (sound waves traveling through a liquid or gas) and seismic waves (waves traveling through a solid medium). Schmerr and colleagues at InSight used these waves, which were measured by six (Internal Structure Seismic Experiment) on InSight, to estimate the approximate locations of the resulting impact sites, noting the unique physics that dictate projectile motions. The team then matched their estimates with the visuals provided by high-resolution cameras, confirming the locations and the accuracy of the team’s modeling.

These results show how planetary seismology (the study of earthquakes and related events such as volcanic eruptions) can be used to identify sources of seismic activity. According to Schmer, this ability may help researchers gauge how often new impacts occur in the inner solar system, where both Mars and Earth are present — an observation essential to understanding the range of near-Earth objects such as asteroids or rock fragments that may pose a threat to Earth.

Additionally, using images to pinpoint the exact location of these impacts makes sound waves and the associated seismic waves invaluable for studying the atmosphere and interior of Mars. By better understanding the locations of earthquakes, scientists will be able to gather basic information about the planet, such as the size and hardness of its core or its heating processes. Geophysicists such as Schmer expect that new developments in planetary seismology will allow them to better investigate underlying tectonic activities and other sources of seismic activity within Mars. The findings ultimately bring the researchers another step closer to understanding planetary formation and evolution.

“Studying how influences work on Mars is like opening a window into the basic processes of how terrestrial planets form,” Schmer said. “All the planets of the inner solar system share this commonality, Earth included.”

NASA’s Insight is a robotic lander designed to study the internal structure of Mars. Active since 2018, the probe is expected to continue the InSight mission until its solar-collecting capacity is fully exhausted.

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