InSight lander detects space rock crashing into Mars

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NASA’s InSight lander has “heard” and detected the vibrations of four space rocks as they hit Mars over the past two years.

This is the first time a quest has been done both seismic and acoustic waves from an impact on Mars and InSight’s first detection of impacts since landing on the red planet in 2018.

Fortunately, InSight is not in the path of these meteorites, as the space rocks are called before they hit the ground. The impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 km) from the stationary lander on Mars’ Elysium Planitia, a flat plain just north of its equator.

A meteor impact formed these craters on Mars in September 2021. This image, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, raises the dust and displaced soil layer to blue to make the rocks appear blue. details are clearer.

A meteorite hit the Martian atmosphere on September 5, 2021, and then exploded into at least three pieces, each of which left a crater on the red planet’s surface.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter then flew over the site to confirm the location of the meteorite’s landing, discovering three dark regions. The orbiter’s color camera, the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, captured detailed close-ups of the craters.

The researchers shared their findings about new craters in a study published Monday in the journal Natural Geosciences.

“After waiting three years for InSight to detect the impact, those craters look beautiful,” said study co-author Ingrid Daubar, assistant professor of Earth, environment, and planetary science at Brown University. in Providence, Rhode Island, said in a statement.

Data from InSight also revealed three other similar impacts, one on May 27, 2020, and two additional impacts in 2021 on February 18 and August 31.

The agency released an audio recording of a meteorite impact on Mars on Monday. During the clip, listen to the sci-fi “bloop” sound three times as the space rock enters the atmosphere, explodes into pieces, and hits the surface.

Scientists have really questioned why more impacts have not been detected on Mars since the planet is located next to the main asteroid belt of the solar system, where many space rocks occur and collide. to the surface of Mars. The atmosphere of Mars is only 1% of the thickness of Earth’s atmosphere, which means there are many meteors that pass through it without disintegrating.

During its time on Mars, InSight used its seismometer to detect more than 1,300 mars, which occurs when the Martian subsurface cracks due to pressure and heat. Sensitive instrument can detect seismic waves occurring thousands of miles away from InSight’s location – but the September 2021 event is the first time scientists have used it wave to confirm an impact.

It is possible that the noise of the Martian wind or the seasonal changes occurring in the atmosphere masked additional effects. Now that the researchers understand what the seismic signature of an impact looks like, they hope to find more when they look at InSight’s data from the past four years.

Seismic waves are helping researchers unlock Additional information about the interior of Mars because they change as they move through different materials.

Meteorite impacts produce earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or less. To date, InSight’s largest earthquake detected is magnitude 5 event in May.

The crater helps scientists understand the age of the planet’s surface. The researchers were also able to determine how many craters formed very early in the tumultuous history of the solar system.

Lead author Raphael Garcia, an academic researcher at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France, said: “Impact is the clock of the solar system. “We need to know today’s impact rates to estimate the ages of different surfaces.”

Studying InSight’s data could provide researchers with a way to analyze the trajectory and size of the shock waves generated when the meteorite enters the atmosphere as well as when it hits the ground.

“We are learning more about the impact process,” says Garcia. “We can now match different sizes of craters to specific seismic and acoustic waves.”

InSight’s mission is coming to an end when dust accumulates on solar panels and reduces its capacity. Eventually, the spacecraft will shut down, but the team isn’t sure when that will happen.

The most recent readings suggest it may be down between October and January 2023.

Until then, the spacecraft still has the opportunity to add to the research portfolio and beautiful collection of discoveries on Mars.

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