InSight Lander detects space rocks crashing into Mars

InSight Lander detects space rocks crashing into Mars
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First time task received Both seismic and acoustic waves from an impact on Mars and the first impact detection since InSight’s 2018 landing on the red planet.

Fortunately, InSight was not in the path of these meteoroids, the name of space rocks before they hit the ground. Impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometers) from the stationary lander’s location on Mars’ Elysium Planitia, a flat plain just north of its equator.

On September 5, 2021, a meteoroid hit the Martian atmosphere 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 where the meteoroid had landed and detected three dark areas. The orbiter’s color imager, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, took detailed close-ups of the craters.

Researchers shared their findings The new craters are found in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Geology.

“After three years of waiting for InSight to detect an impact, these craters looked beautiful,” said study author Ingrid Daubar, an assistant professor of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Data from InSight also revealed two more similar effects, one on May 27, 2020, and one on February 18 and August 31 in 2021.

The agency released a recording of a Mars meteoroid impact on Monday. During the clip, listen to a sci-fi-sounding “bloop” three times as the space rock enters the atmosphere, disintegrates, and crashes into the surface.

Scientists have really questioned why more impacts haven’t been detected on Mars, as the planet is located next to our solar system’s main asteroid belt, where many space rocks appear to crash into the Martian surface. The Martian atmosphere has only 1% of the thickness of Earth’s atmosphere, which means more meteoroids pass through it without breaking apart.

During his time on Mars, InSight used its seismometer to detect more than 1,300 Martian earthquakes that occurred when the Martian subsurface cracked due to pressure and heat. The 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. waves to confirm an effect.

NASA's InSight rover just detected the biggest earthquake on Mars

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

Seismic waves help researchers unlock Additional information about the interior of Mars because they change as they pass through different materials.
Meteoroid effects create earthquakes of magnitude 2.0 or less. InSight’s largest earthquake ever detected Magnitude 5 event in May.

Impact craters help scientists understand the age of a planet’s surface. Researchers can also identify how many of the craters formed early in the solar system’s turbulent history.

Dust-covered solar panels mean NASA's Mars landing mission is over

“The effects are the clocks of the solar system,” said lead author Raphael Garcia, an academic researcher at the Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France. “To estimate the age of different surfaces, we need to know the impact rate today.”

Examining InSight’s data could provide researchers with a way to analyze the trajectory and size of the shock wave produced when the meteoroid enters the atmosphere and hits the ground.

“We’re learning more about the impact process itself,” Garcia said. Said. “We can now map craters of different sizes to specific seismic and acoustic waves.”

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

The latest readings suggested it could close between next October and January 2023.

Until then, the spacecraft still has a chance to add to its portfolio of research and its stunning collection of discoveries on Mars.

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