Origins of mysterious marsquake settled: It was a meteoroid what done it

We've spotted the massive ice-hole it left behind

Data collected from two Mars missions has been combined to explain why the red planet shook on Christmas Eve 2021.

NASA's InSight Lander felt the ground shake on that day. Scientists have since learned more about the event thanks to images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which spotted a previously unobserved hole in the red planet two and a half months after the lander felt the rumble.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) released the vid below, which depicts seismogram data and sonification of the signals the Lander collected.

YouTube Video

"The agency's lander felt the ground shake during the impact while cameras aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the yawning new crater from space," reported the space agency.

JPL has also provided an animated simulated flyover of the impact site created MRO HiRISE camera data.

YouTube Video

NASA has estimated the hole in the ground is "one of the largest craters ever witnessed forming any place in the solar system."

Boffins have already determined the impact resulted in the excavation of "boulder-sized" chunks of ice that were buried near the Martian equator. Chunks of Mars became projectiles and ended up 23 miles (37km) from the impact site. It's a situation that not only reveals a lot about the planet's geology, but informs scientists on how to get the most out of future Mars expeditions.

NASA explained that "Establishing the rate at which craters appear on Mars is critical for refining the planet's geologic timeline."

Seeing a fresh hole blasted into the Martian crust also offers useful insight into what lies below the planet's surface.

"Subsurface ice will be a vital resource for astronauts, who could use it for a variety of needs, including drinking water, agriculture, and rocket propellant. Buried ice has never been spotted this close to the Martian equator, which, as the warmest part of Mars, is an appealing location for astronauts," NASA further explained.

NASA reckons the meteoroid that did the job was between 16 and 39 feet in diameter – a size that would've burned up in the atmosphere had its target been Earth. Thanks to Mars's thin atmosphere, the space rock made it through to a region called Amazonis Planitia.

The flying space object had impeccable timing – had it arrived a year later, InSight may have not been around to capture the collision. InSight is expected to be inoperable by December this year, having already experienced a drastic decline in power thanks to dust on its solar panels.

The spacecraft landed on Mars in 2018 and was tasked with studying its crust, mantle and core. It has since detected over 1,300 marsquakes, some caused by meteoroid impacts.

The recording of the impact is special though. It's the first time seismic waves have been observed along the top of Mars's crust. ®

Similar topics

TIP US OFF

Send us news


Other stories you might like