InSight lander detects space rocks hitting Mars

NASA’s InSight lander has detected seismic and acoustic waves caused by the impact of four meteoroids and found the location of the craters left by these space rocks.

Key facts

  • For the first time, scientists were able to calculate the locations of craters left by meteoroids on the Martian surface based on seismic and acoustic waves.
  • The researchers confirmed the calculations made by InSight Lander using the NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
  • The recent seismic measurements provide a new tool for the better investigation of the Mars and other planets where seismometer can be landed.
  • One of the space rocks detected by the InSight Lander hit the Martian surface in 2020 and the rest landed in 2021. They have left craters of up to 7.2 meters wide.
  • They landed between 85 km and 290 km from the InSight’s location.
  • Mars is close to the solar system’s asteroid belt, which makes it highly vulnerable to impacts by space rocks.
  • Its atmosphere is just 1 percent as thick as Earth’s. Hence, meteoroids pass through it without disintegrating unlike when they pass through the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • However, this is the first time that InSight captured the sound of the space rock hitting the Red Planet.
  • According to researchers, the past impacts may have been undetected because of the noise from wind or by seasonal changes in the atmosphere.
  • It is possible that more such seismic and acoustic waves may be hidden within the lander’s nearly four years of data.

About InSight Mission

The Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is a robotic lander that aims to study the deep interior of the Red Planet. This three-legged instrument landed on the Martian surface in 2018 on a vast and relatively plain surface north of the Martian equator called Elysium Planitia.

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