December 9, 2022

One of the numerous contrasts between the two planetary neighbours is that Mars is much more vulnerable than Earth to being impacted by space rocks because of its flimsy atmosphere and proximity to our solar system’s asteroid belt.

With assistance from NASA’s robotic InSight lander, scientists are currently acquiring a deeper grasp of this Martian characteristic. On Monday, researchers explained how InSight detected seismic and acoustic waves from the impact of four meteorites and then determined the locations of the craters they left behind – the first such measurements anywhere other than Earth.

The crater locations were verified by the researchers using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit.

Planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who is leading the InSight project, stated, “These seismic measurements provide us an entirely new instrument for understanding Mars, or any other planet we may deploy a seismometer on.”

The four space rocks that InSight monitored—one of which touched down in 2020 and the other three in 2021—were quite small in size, weighing up to 440 pounds (200 kg) on average, with diameters of up to 20 inches (50 cm) and craters up to 24 feet (7.2 metres) wide. Between 53 and 180 miles (290 and 290 kilometres) from InSight, they landed. One detonated into at least three fragments, each of which carved out a crater.

The researchers anticipate finding more information in InSight’s data going back to 2018 now that the seismic signature of such impacts has been identified.

The three-legged InSight, whose full name is Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport, touched down on Mars in 2018 at Elysium Planitia, a huge and largely level plain to the north of the planet’s equator.

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According to planetary scientist and study lead author Raphael Garcia of the University of Toulouse’s ISAE-SUPAERO institute of aeronautics and space, “the moon is also a target for future meteor impact detection.”

Prior to the mission, the scientific objectives for InSight included researching seismic activity and meteorite strikes in addition to looking into the interior structure and processes of Mars.

By identifying more than 1,300 marsquakes, InSight’s seismometer instrument demonstrated that Mars is seismically active. Seismic waves picked up by InSight were used to decipher Mars’ internal structure in studies released last year, providing the first estimates of the size of the planet’s massive liquid metal core, the thickness of its crust, and the composition of its mantle.

(source : Reuters)