Mars, by virtue of its fragile atmosphere and proximity to our solar system’s asteroid belt, Earth is more likely to be hit by space rocks, one of the many differences between the two neighboring planets.
Scientists are now gaining a more complete understanding of this Martian feature with the help of NASA’s Insight robotic probe. On Monday, the researchers described how InSight detected seismic and sound waves from the impact of four meteorites and then calculated the location of the craters they left behind – the first such measurements anywhere other than Earth.
The researchers used observations from NASA’s Mars Exploration Orbiter in space to confirm the positions of the craters.
“These seismic measurements provide us with an entirely new tool for exploring Mars, or any other planet that we can reach with a seismometer,” said planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, principal investigator of the Insight mission.
The space rocks tracked by InSight – one landing in 2020 and the other three in 2021 – were relatively modest in size, estimated to weigh around 440 pounds (200 kg), with diameters of around 20 inches (50 cm) and in starting up to approximately 24 feet (7.2 meters). They landed between 53 miles (85 km) and 180 miles (290 km) from the Insight site. One of them exploded into at least three pieces, each of which had their own graves dug.
“We can relate the type, location and size of a known source to the appearance of the seismic signal,” Brown said. We can apply this information to better understand InSight’s entire catalog of seismic events and use the results on other planets and moons as well. ”Planetary scientist Ingrid Dubard, co-author of the study published in Nature Geoscience https://www.nature.com / articles / s41561-022-01014-0.
Researchers believe the seismic signature of such impacts has been discovered and expect to find more information from InSight data from 2018.
The three-legged InSight rover, which stands for Inland Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Thermal Transport, landed in 2018 on a vast, relatively flat plain north of the Martian equator called Elysium Planitia.
“The moon is also a target for future meteorite impact detection,” said planetary scientist and study lead author Rafael Garcia of the ISAE-SUPAERO Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the University of Toulouse.
“And it could be the sensors themselves that are doing it, because InSight’s backup sensors are currently integrated into the Farside Seismic Suite instrument for a trip to the Moon in 2025,” Garcia added, referring to an instrument that is supposed to be positioned near the moon pole. south on the visible side of the moon, permanently off the ground.
Mars’ atmosphere is more than twice as likely to be hit by a meteorite than Earth, the name given to a space rock before it hits the surface. However, the Earth’s atmosphere is much denser than that which protects the planet.
“Meteorites usually break up and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere, forming fireballs that rarely reach the surface to form a crater,” Daubar said. Compared to Mars, hundreds of impact craters form somewhere on the planet’s surface every year. “
Mars’ atmosphere is only 1% thicker than Earth’s. The asteroid belt, an abundant source of space rock, lies between Mars and Jupiter.
InSight’s specific scientific objectives prior to the mission were to study the internal structure and processes of Mars, as well as to study seismic activity and meteorite impacts.
InSight’s seismograph demonstrated that Mars is seismically active, detecting more than 1,300 swamps. In an article published last year, the seismic waves detected by InSight helped decipher Mars’ internal structure, including first estimates of the size of its massive liquid metal core, the thickness of its crust, and the nature of its atmosphere.
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