a dark hole gaping in reddish brown surface with weak white patches around it

NASA’s ailing Mars lander feels a shockwave from an icy blast meteor impact.

For a lonely geologist stationed on the Red Planet, Christmas has arrived a day early. NASA’s InSight mission landed on Mars in November 2018 to look inside the planet and map its strata and faults. And on December 24, 2021, the lander made a startling detection capturing seismic waves from a significant meteor impact. Photographs taken from orbit made the signal even more interesting as scientists linked seismic sensing to the view of a large, fresh crater. “It immediately became clear that this was the largest new crater we had ever seen.” InSight’s Ingrid Daubar, director of impact science and planetary scientist at Brown University, said at a press conference on Thursday (October 27), “We believe that a crater of this size will form somewhere on Earth once every few decades, maybe once a generation. I thought,” he said. she said “So we were able to witness this and the lucky thing that happened while InSight was recording the seismic data was a really scientific gift.” Image taken with MRO’s HiRISE camera shows the impact crater formed on December 24, 2021. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona) In September, InSight scientists announced the detection of four meteorite impacts, each with a tie. New craters created before 2020 and 2021. However, this was a small impact. Nothing produced a stronger seismic signal than a magnitude 2 earthquake. The lander’s Christmas Eve data was shown in blue because InSight team members believed they would never see a sign of a stronger attack. These observations indicated that a magnitude 4 impact produced a crater over 130 meters (430 feet) wide. (InSight observed a similar effect in September 2021, and the mission team described these findings in the published scientific paper.) But while InSight scientists dig into what the Christmas Eve impact might mean, NASA’s Mars reconnaissance mission Orbiter (MRO) scientists, who have been studying the red planet since 2006, made another discovery when they discovered a fresh, large impact crater. “When I first saw this image, I was very excited,” Liliya Posiolova, head of MRO orbital science operations at Malin Space Science Systems, California, told a briefing on Thursday. “It’s unlike anything we’ve seen before.” Posiolova and her colleagues told MRO’s context camera For the first time, they found a new crater in the data collected by . Daubar said the crater itself stretched about 500 feet (150 m), which was ten times the size of two city blocks. A typical new crater on Mars. Posiolova said that fresh impact craters are typically MRO. “It looks like a simple blotch in the data,” he said. “It’s wide before it’s doomed. If it had hit Earth, a rock of that size would have burned out in Earth’s atmosphere, but Mars’ thin atmosphere doesn’t do much to protect its surface,” Daubar said. The point is, in the high-resolution imagery, it was clear that a lot of the ice was exposed from this impact.” “This is the warmest place on Mars and closest to the equator, and it was surprising because we had seen ice in the water before. .”She noted that ice probably wouldn’t, as the impact likely destroyed most of the meteoroid itself. I mean the impactor is a comet. Instead, the team is convinced that the ice was hiding beneath the surface of Mars. Because it’s on the surface, scientists see orbital images suggesting that the ice is disappearing and evaporating into the atmosphere.A before-and-after view of the impact crater formed on December 24, 2021 from the MRO’s context camera. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech /MSSS) Peeking into the Earth’s crust predictable thanks to seismic data from InSight The unsuccessful ice discovery isn’t the only information the shock provides scientists. This data includes the first observations of surface waves shared by the InSight mission. When an earthquake occurs, it produces the largest signals that geologists call P-waves and S-waves. Because the two types of seismic waves respond to different rock layers, they convey information about the planet’s interior, but surface waves offer scientists a way to study the crust of the red planet on a large scale. “The nice thing about surface waves is that the lander sees the crust as it moves across the planet, not just the crust it sits on,” said Bruce Banerdt, senior researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. California said at a press conference. “So the entire path between the event (in this case the impact) and InSight is sampled by the surface wave as it travels across the planet.” The crater from the Christmas Eve impact is about 3,500 kilometers from the lander, allowing scientists to peer into the long crust through surface waves. (The September crash was farther away, nearly 4,700 miles or 7,500 kilometers from InSight.) “From the beginning of the plan, we thought we would use surface waves to find earthquakes and surface waves to survey structures.” Banerdt said. But for the first three years of the mission we didn’t see any surface waves.” Now, InSight has finally caught these waves thanks to two big impacts. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS) The big impacts are especially It’s a shocking event, but InSight scientists are also learning from a much less dramatic sign: A separate study published today based on data from InSight found that, despite many scientists’ belief that Mars was geologically dead, eventually Mars still had some melting. , a fracture network dominates the landscape. Researchers believe these earthquakes are characteristic of the molten rock just below the crust.” What we are seeing is the last remnants of this once active volcanic region, or it is possible that the magma is now moving eastward. “The eruption exploded,” said Simon Staller, the study’s lead author and seismologist at ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, in a statement. The magma study is described in a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature Astronomy. Landers are running out of power due to dust build-up on solar panels and storm-blackened skies, and seismographs are currently only observing from Mars for eight hours every four days. InSight staff expect the mission to be over in several months. “It’s sad to think about, but InSight has been working great for the past four years,” Banerdt said. “We’re still in the final stages and we’re still getting amazing new results.” Banerdt said the team currently expects the mission to be over in four to eight weeks. Lori Glaze, head of NASA’s planetary science division, said at a press conference about the impact of Christmas Eve, “The amazing capstone science results that could end.” “He said, “I mean, literally going out.” Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow us on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and Facebook.
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