Meteorite blasts ‘largest new crater’ NASA has ever seen on Mars

Written by admin

A recent meteorite impact on Mars was so powerful it could be felt by a NASA lander thousands of miles away – and the new Martian crater it created could affect our plans for sending people to Mars. the red planet.

The superficial level: On December 24, 2021, NASA’s aging InSight lander detected seismic waves on Mars. That wasn’t unusual – the lander has already detected more than 1,300 marsquakes – but what has been remarkable was the type of waves detected.

“This is the first time that surface seismic waves have been observed on a planet other than Earth.”

Doyon Kim

Instead of “body waves” that emanate from deep underground, these were “surface waves” that had traveled along rocks on the surface of Mars. NASA had hoped for years to detect these waves with InSight to improve its understanding of Mars’ crust.

“This is the first time that surface seismic waves have been observed on a planet other than Earth,” said Doyeon Kim, lead author of a paper on the earthquake. “Even the Apollo missions to the Moon did not achieve this.”

Even more interesting, NASA didn’t know exactly what caused the waves.

Go further : Fast forward to February 11, 2022, when a team from Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) noticed a new Mars crater in images from another spacecraft, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“It’s a huge, huge feature,” Liliya Posiolova, head of the MSSS’s orbital science and operations group, told The Washington Post. “You are trained to see small features. With your eye, you look for spots.

“This crater is more than 10 times larger than the typical new craters we see forming on Mars.”

Ingrid Daubar

Based on higher resolution images of the crater, researchers determined it to be about 490 feet wide and 70 feet deep.

“It was immediately clear that this was the largest new crater we had ever seen…even though meteorites hit the planet all the time, this crater is more than 10 times larger than typical new craters that we see forming on Mars,” said Ingrid Daubar, head of InSight’s impact science working group.

The impact that created the crater was powerful enough to send material flying 23 miles away – and to dislodge large chunks of water ice from beneath the Martian surface.

NASA had never spotted water ice this close to the Martian equator before, and the discovery is a boon for future human exploration missions – Martian astronauts will need a water source, and the climate near the equator is less hostile than near the polar ice caps of Mars.

mars crater

Before and after images of the impact site. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Connect it all: To pinpoint the date of the impact, Posiolova’s team began examining older images of the crater site and found that it first appeared on December 25, 2021. That’s when Posiolova s remembered that InSight had detected a major earthquake on December 24.

The site of Mars’ new crater matched the predicted epicenter of the earthquake, confirming that the meteorite impact had caused it. This means that NASA has successfully snagged the visual and record event audio data.

“We thought a crater of this size might form somewhere on the planet once every few decades, maybe once in a generation,” Daubar said. “So it was very exciting to be able to witness this event and have the chance to have this happen while InSight was recording seismic data – it was a real science gift.”

mars crater

A representation of the seismic waves created by the impact and location of InSight. Credit: IPGP / CNES / N. Starter

Say goodbye: The discovery was particularly fortuitous given that NASA only uses InSight’s seismometer one day out of four.

“For the past four years, the lander has been collecting a lot of dust on its solar panels,” said Bruce Barnerdt, principal investigator of the Insight mission. “We kind of reduced spacecraft operations as it happened in order to extract as much scientific data as possible.”

NASA expects InSight to run out of power completely over the next six to eight weeks, but thanks to the new earthquake caused by the impact, the lander slams shut.

We would love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

#Meteorite #blasts #largest #crater #NASA #Mars

About the author


Leave a Comment