NASA’s InSight lander discovers space rocks, craters on Mars | Space News

InSight detects seismic and acoustic waves from meteorites and calculates the positions of craters – the first such measurements outside of Earth.

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

Scientists are now more fully understanding this feature of Mars, with help from NASA’s robotics InSight lander.

Researchers on Monday described how InSight detected seismic and acoustic waves from when four meteorites hit its surface and then calculated the positions of the craters they left behind – the the first such measurement 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 on which we can place seismometers.

Crater on Mars
The crater formed by the impact of a meteorite on September 5, 2021 on Mars [NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters]

The moon is also a target

The space rocks that InSight tracks – one landing in 2020 and another three in 2021 – are relatively modest in size, estimated to weigh up to about 440 pounds (200kg), with a diameter of up to approx. 20 inches (50cm) and leaves a crater about 24 feet (7.2 meters) wide.

They landed between 53 miles (85km) and 180 miles (290km) from InSight’s location. One explodes into at least three pieces that each go into their craters.

“We can connect a known source type, location and size to what a seismic signal looks like. We can apply this information to better understand InSight’s entire catalog of seismic events, while also using the results on other planets and moons,” said planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar of InSight. Brown University said published research in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Mars meteorite
This collage shows three meteorite impacts on Mars as detected by the seismometer on NASA’s InSight lander [NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Handout via Reuters]

The researchers believe that seismic signatures of such collisions have now been detected, which they expect to find more in 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 ISAE-SUPAERO Institute for Aeronautics and Space at the University of Toulouse.

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

‘Hundreds of impact’

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 up and disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere, forming fireballs that rarely reach the surface to form craters. In comparison on marshundreds of craters are 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.

InSight’s seismometer determines that Mars is seismically active, detecting more than 1,300 earthquakes on the planet. 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.

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