NASA shared the sound of a meteor crashing into Mars, along with photos of the impact craters, on Monday.
The descending InSight lander has recorded the acoustic and seismic noise of four meteor impacts.
Hear the amazing “thump” of a space rock falling into the Martian atmosphere and crashing.
No one had ever heard the sound of a meteor hitting another planet until NASA’s InSight lander recorded the seismic waves of a space rock hitting Mars.
On September 5, 2021, a rock launched into space crossed the path of the red planet. The meteor screamed toward the dusty orange surface of the planet, sending a shock wave through the atmosphere.
Although it may have burned up from the friction and heat of plowing through Earth’s atmosphere, the meteorite survived the thin air of Mars. It broke into at least three pieces, which fell to the surface of the planet and made craters.
The InSight lander’s seismometer, designed to measure earthquakes and dust devils on Mars, was sensitive enough to detect the acoustic impact of the shock wave hitting the ground as well as seismic waves from the meteorite landing. NASA shared audio of the entire event on Monday. Listen below.
“Strangely, it sounds more like a ‘bloop’ than a ‘bang!'” science writer Corey Powell he said on Twitter.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, a satellite orbiting the planet, later captured images of impact craters from the meteorite.
“After three years of waiting for InSight to detect an impact, these craters looked beautiful,” Ingrid Dabar, a Martian impact expert at Brown University, said in a NASA news release.
Since then, scientists have combed past InSight data and confirmed three other meteor impacts that occurred in 2020 and 2021, ranging from 53 to 180 miles away from the craft. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter later imaged impact craters from these meteorites.
Details of the four Martian meteorites were published in an article in Nature Geosciences on Monday.
Because the impacts were so faint that scientists initially missed them, the study authors suspect that other meteor impacts could be hiding in the last four years of seismometer data, lost in the seismic noise of a gust of wind, according to the press release.
InSight is nearing the end of its life
These are the first meteorite impacts detected by InSight since it landed on Mars in 2018. The lander’s powerful seismometer has detected more than 1,300 earthquakes on Mars, revealing that the planet has a molten core and a thin, fragmented crust similar to that of the moon. InSight has also collected the dust devils’ seismic rumbles and gathered weather data.
However, the robot’s time is running out. His landing spot on the vast plain of Elysium Planitia turned out to be surprisingly windless. NASA usually relies on gusts of wind to blow diffuse Martian dust away from its robot’s solar panels. InSight has seen very few such cleaning events.
Dust accumulation slowly reduces the lander’s ability to generate power. In 2018, its battery charge was enough to run an electric oven for one hour and 40 minutes. These days, such a furnace could only operate for 10 minutes, mission manager Kathia Zamora Garcia said at a news conference in May.
As of Monday, according to the press release, NASA engineers believe the craft could run out of power and shut down completely sometime between October 2022 and January 2023.
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