A huge meteorite hit Mars. Then NASA made an even bigger discovery.

A huge meteorite hit Mars.  Then NASA made an even bigger discovery.
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It wasn’t your average marsquake that the Insight Mars lander heard roaring against the backdrop of the red planet last Christmas Eve.

NASAThe Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter apparently found the source of the rumble a few months later. Space: a spectacular meteor impact 2,000 miles away near Mars’ equator, estimated to be one of the largest impacts ever observed on a neighboring planet.

But what excites scientists perhaps as much or more as the recorded seismic activity is what the meteor revealed when it slammed into Mars – huge, rock-sized chunks of ice blasting out of the crater. Until now, ground ice has not been found in this region, which is the hottest part of the planet.

“This is a really exciting result,” Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary science, said at a news conference on Thursday. “Of course, we know that there is water ice on Mars near the poles. But when planning future human explorations of Mars, we would like to land astronauts as close to the equator as possible and have access to ice at these poles. At lower latitudes, ice can be converted to water, oxygen, or hydrogen. It can be really helpful.”

discoveries recently published in two related studies in the journal ScienceIt’s like a grand finale for NASA’s Insight lander. lose strength quickly. Scientists estimate it has about four to eight weeks before it loses contact with the all-terrain vehicle. At this point the mission will end.

Insight for the last four years More than 1,000 marsquakes and collected daily weather reports. Detected the existence of the planet large liquid core and helped map the interior geology of Mars.

Program leaders have prepared the people for this for a certain period of time. As the spacecraft sat on the Martian surface, dust accumulated on its solar panels. Layers of sand from the red desert planet blocked the rays it needed to convert it into power. The team downsized Insight’s operations to squeeze in as much science as possible before the hardware shuts down.

Insight Lander collects dust

As the Insight spacecraft sat on the surface of Mars, dust accumulated on its solar panels.
Credit: NASA

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Then, the team got some worse news last month. A fierce dust storm swept across much of Mar’s southern hemisphere. Insight went from about 400 watt-hours to less than 300 per Martian day.

“Unfortunately, since this is dry a big dust storm“It’s actually releasing a lot of dust into the atmosphere, and it has greatly reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the solar panels,” said Bruce Banerdt, Insight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

But NASA believes scientists will continue to learn a lot about past climate conditions on Mars and when and how the glacier was buried there. fresh craterIt’s shy of 500 feet wide and just 70 feet deep.

Planetary scientist Ingrid Daubar of Brown University, who leads InSight’s impact science working group, said they were confident the ice came from Mars, not a meteor.

“An impact of this magnitude would actually destroy the meteorite that came to hit the surface,” he said. “We wouldn’t expect the original impactor, if any, to survive this high-energy explosion.”

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