NASA’s InSight Lander Detects Space Rocks As They Slam Into Mars

NASA's InSight lander detects space rocks as they crash into Mars

These seismic measurements give us a whole new tool to investigate Mars, say NASA scientists.


Mars, due to its winding atmosphere and proximity to the asteroid belt in our solar system, is much more vulnerable than Earth to being hit by space rocks – one of many differences. between two neighboring planets.

Scientists are now getting a fuller understanding of this feature of Mars, with help from NASA’s InSight lander. Researchers on Monday described how InSight detected seismic and acoustic waves from the impact of four meteorites and then calculated the positions of the craters they left – the first measurements so anywhere but Earth.

The researchers used observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in space to confirm the crater’s location.

“These seismic measurements provide us with a whole new tool for measuring the Earth’s surface,” said planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, principal investigator of the InSight mission. investigate Mars or any other planet we might land with a seismometer.

The space rocks that InSight tracks – one landing in 2020 and three more in 2021 – are relatively modest in size, estimated to weigh up to about 440 pounds (200 kg), with diameters up to about 20 inches (50 centimeters) and leaves the crater up to 24 feet (7.2 meters) wide. They landed between 53 miles (85 km) and 180 miles (290 km) from InSight’s location. One explodes into at least three pieces that each go into their craters.

“We were able to connect the known source type, location, and size to the seismic signal,” Brown said. “We can apply this information to better understand the entire catalog of seismic events,” Brown said. of InSight and using the results on other planets and moons” University planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar, co-author of the study published in Nature Geoscience articles/s41561-022-01014-0.

The researchers believe that seismic signatures of such impacts have now been detected, which they expect to find in more InSight’s data as of 2018.

The three-legged InSight – its name stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigation, Measurement and Heat Transport – landed in 2018 on a large and relatively flat plain just north of the island. North of the Martian equator is called Elysium Planitia.

“The moon is also a target for future asteroid impact detection,” said planetary scientist and study lead author Raphael Garcia of the University of Toulouse’s ISAE-SUPAERO institute for aeronautics and spaceflight. .

“And maybe the same sensors will do that, because InSight’s backup sensors are now being incorporated into the Farside Seismic Suite for a moon flight in 2025,” Garcia added. Garcia added, referring to an instrument that would be placed near the moon’s south pole on the side of the moon permanently facing away from Earth.

Mars is twice as likely as Earth when its atmosphere is hit by a meteorite – as it’s called for a space rock before it hits the surface. However, Earth has a much thicker atmosphere to protect the planet.

“So meteors often break apart and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere, forming fireballs that rarely reach the surface to form craters. Compared to Mars, hundreds of impact craters. is forming somewhere on the planet’s surface every year,” Daubar said.

Mars’ atmosphere is only about 1% as thick as Earth’s. The asteroid belt, an abundant source of space rock, lies between Mars and Jupiter.

The science goals set for InSight ahead of the mission are to investigate the interior structure and processes of Mars, as well as to study seismic activity and meteorite impacts.

InSight’s seismometer determines that Mars is seismically active, detecting more than 1,300 mars. In research published last year, seismic waves detected by InSight helped decipher the inner structure of Mars, including the first estimates of the size of the large liquid metal core, the thickness of the crust. and the nature of the coating.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)

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