InSight lander detects tremors from meteoroids hitting Mars

NasaInSight’s lander ‘heard’ and detected vibrations of four space rocks as they hit March over the past two years.

Not only are these the first impacts detected by the spacecraft’s seismometer since InSight landed on the Red Planet in 2018, but it’s also the first time seismic and acoustic waves from an impact have been detected on Mars. .

The US space agency has released a recording of one of the Martian meteoroid impacts, with a distinctive “bloop” sound ringing out three times as the space rock enters the atmosphere, shatters into pieces and hits the surface.

The impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometers) from the stationary lander’s position in an area of ​​Mars called Elysium Planitia, a smooth plain just north of the planet’s equator.

The first of four meteoroids – the term used for space rocks before they hit the ground – made the most spectacular entrance.

NASA’s InSight lander ‘heard’ and detected the vibrations of four space rocks as they slammed into Mars in the past two years (pictured)

Not only are these the first impacts detected by the spacecraft's seismometer since InSight landed on the Red Planet in 2018, but it's also the first time seismic and acoustic waves from an impact have been detected on Mars. .

Not only are these the first impacts detected by the spacecraft’s seismometer since InSight landed on the Red Planet in 2018, but it’s also the first time seismic and acoustic waves from an impact have been detected on Mars. .

EXPLAINED: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ATEROID, A METEORITE AND OTHER SPACE ROCKS

A asteroid is a large piece of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.

A commit is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much farther from the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.

These debris themselves are known as meteoroid. Most are so small that they vaporize into the atmosphere.

If one of these meteoroids arrives on Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.

For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

It entered the Red Planet’s atmosphere on September 5, 2021 and exploded in at least three bursts that each left a crater.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter then flew over the estimated impact site to confirm the location.

He used his black and white pop-up camera to reveal three dark dots on the surface.

After locating these points, the orbiter team used the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera to get a color close-up of the craters.

“After three years of waiting for InSight to detect an impact, these craters were magnificent,” said Ingrid Daubar of Brown University, co-author of a new research paper on the discovery and Mars impact specialist. .

After combing through past data, scientists confirmed that three more impacts occurred on May 27, 2020, February 18, 2021, and August 31, 2021.

Researchers wonder why they haven’t detected more meteorite impacts on Mars.

The red planet sits next to the solar system’s main asteroid belt, which provides enough space rock to scar the planet’s surface.

Since Mars’ atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, more meteoroids pass through it without disintegrating.

InSight’s seismometer has already detected more than 1,300 earthquakes.

Provided by the French space agency, the Center National d’Etudes Spatiales, the instrument is so sensitive that it can detect seismic waves thousands of kilometers away.

But the September 5, 2021 event marks the first time an impact has been confirmed as the cause of such waves.

The InSight team suspects other impacts may have been masked by wind noise or seasonal changes in the atmosphere.

But now that the distinctive seismic signature of an impact on Mars has been uncovered, scientists expect to find more hiding places in InSight’s nearly four years of data.

The US space agency released a recording of one of the Martian meteoroid impacts, with a distinctive sound

The US space agency has released a recording of one of the Martian meteoroid impacts, with a distinctive “bloop” sound ringing out three times as the space rock enters the atmosphere, shatters into pieces and hits the surface.

The impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometers) from the stationary lander's position in an area of ​​Mars called Elysium Planitia, a smooth plain just north of the planet's equator.

The impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometers) from the stationary lander’s position in an area of ​​Mars called Elysium Planitia, a smooth plain just north of the planet’s equator.

The seismic data offers various clues that will help researchers better understand the Red Planet.

Most earthquakes are caused by underground rocks cracking due to heat and pressure. Studying how the resulting seismic waves change as they travel through different materials provides scientists with a way to study the crust, mantle, and core of Mars.

The four meteoroid impacts confirmed so far have produced small earthquakes of magnitude no greater than 2.0.

These smaller earthquakes only provide scientists with a glimpse of the Martian crust, while seismic signals from larger earthquakes, such as the magnitude 5 event in May 2022, can also reveal details about the mantle and core of the planet.

But the impacts will be key to refining the Mars timeline.

Seismic data offers various clues that will help researchers better understand the Red Planet

Seismic data offers various clues that will help researchers better understand the Red Planet

“Impacts are the clocks of the solar system,” said the paper’s lead author, Raphael Garcia of the Higher Institute of Aeronautics and Space in Toulouse, France.

“We need to know the impact rate today to estimate the age of the different surfaces.”

Scientists can approximate the age of a planet’s surface by counting its impact craters – the more they see, the older the surface.

Data from InSight, combined with orbital images, can be used to reconstruct a meteoroid’s path and the size of its shock wave.

Each meteoroid creates a shock wave when it hits the atmosphere and an explosion when it hits the ground. These events send sound waves into the atmosphere.

The larger the explosion, the more that sound wave tilts the ground when it hits InSight.

The lander’s seismometer is sensitive enough to measure the tilt of the ground from such an event and in which direction.

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

The new article was published in the journal nature geoscience.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY FEATURES ON MARS?

The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, a United States Air Force station in Florida, on November 26, 2011.

In late January 2018, the Curiosity team on Earth received many new images of the rover via a record-breaking relay from Nasa’s Maven orbiter, exceeding one gigabit of data in a single relay session from Mars for the first times in history.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., released this image in a single panoramic shot, which provides a glimpse of the rover’s path along the outer rim of the crater.

The image features a number of key features spotted by the rover on its travels. This included:

Darwin

– Darwin is an impact crater about 176 km in diameter.

– It was first spotted by an orbiting spacecraft

– Experts believe this could reveal the interior composition and history of the plains at the bottom of Gale Crater.

– It could also provide insight into past water flows and provide evidence of the role water played in rock stratification in the region.

Bradbury Landing

– This area is Curiosity’s landing site

– It was named after the late author Ray Bradbury who wrote various books about Mars including “The Martian Chronicles”.

Yellowknife Bay

– Rocks in Yellowknife Bay are reminiscent of ancient lake and stream deposits

– This area could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life.

– The rocks were exposed about 70 million years ago by the removal of overlying layers due to wind erosion

Dunes of Bagnold

– The name of this dune field is a tribute to the British military engineer Ralph Bagnold (1896 to 1990) who studied how winds move sand particles from dunes on Earth.

– These dunes are actively migrating. These are the first active dunes explored in situ on another planet

– Researchers hope this will help us understand modern winds and aeolian processes

twin craters

– Experts believe that intense underground steam explosions created these “twin” craters.

– The larger of the two craters was named Arima after a town on the island of Trinidad and the smaller crater remained unnamed.

– Both are over 50 km in diameter.

– The smaller crater has several stepped terraces between the upper edge of the crater wall and the floor

– Numerous smaller impact craters nearby suggest that there was groundwater or ice on the planet in the past