CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida- A National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) lander on Mars has picked up the vibrations and sounds of four meteoroids hitting the planet’s surface.
Scientists reported Monday that Mars InSigh detected seismic and acoustic waves from a series of impacts in 2020 and 2021.. A satellite orbiting the Red Planet confirmed the locations of the impacts, up to 180 miles (290 kilometers) away from the lander.
Scientists are delighted with the detections, a first on another planet.
The first confirmed meteoroid exploded into at least three pieces, each of which left its own crater. An 11-second audio clip of this impact includes three “bloops,” as NASA calls them, one of which sounds like metal flapping in the wind here on Earth.
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The InSight team expected to pick up numerous meteoroid impacts, given Mars’ proximity to the asteroid belt and the planet’s thin atmosphere, which tends to prevent incoming space rocks from burning up. However, the lander’s seismometer, built in France, might not have detected impacts due to interference from the Martian wind or seasonal changes in the atmosphere. Scientists now know what to look for, according to NASA, which will likely lead to increased detections.
Launched in 2018, InSight has already detected more than 1,300 Martian earthquakes. The largest measured magnitude 5 earlier this year. By comparison, marshes generated by meteoroid impacts did not register more than a magnitude 2.