A colossal meteorite hit Mars. Then NASA made an even bigger discovery.

It wasn’t the average earthquake the Insight Mars lander heard roaring through the Red Planet’s soil last Christmas Eve.

NasaMars Reconnaissance Orbiter apparently found the source of the rumble a few months later from its vantage point at space: a spectacular meteoric impact more than 2,000 miles near the equator of Mars, estimated to be one of the largest impacts observed on the neighboring planet.

But what thrills scientists perhaps as much or more than the recorded seismic activity was what the meteor discovered when it slammed into Mars – huge boulder-sized chunks of ice thrown out from the crater. Until now, no underground ice had been found in this region, the hottest part of the planet.

“It’s really an exciting result,” Lori Glaze, NASA’s director of planetary sciences, said at a press conference Thursday. “We know, of course, that there is water ice near the poles on Mars. But in planning for future human exploration of Mars, we would like to land astronauts as close to the equator as possible. , and having access to ice at those poles at lower latitudes, that ice can be converted into water, oxygen, or hydrogen could be really helpful.

Discovery, recently published in two related studies in the journal Scienceis something of a grand finale for NASA’s Insight lander, which is power loss rapidly. Scientists estimated they had about four to eight weeks left before losing contact with the lander. At that point, the mission will end.

Over the past four years, Insight has studied more than 1,000 marsquakes and collected daily weather reports. He detected the planet large liquid core and helped map the interior geology of Mars.

Program managers have prepared the public for this result for some time. As the spacecraft sat on the surface of Mars, dust collected on its solar panels. The red desert planet’s layers of sand have blocked the rays it needs to convert into energy. The team reduced Insight’s operations to extract as much science as possible before the hardware was destroyed.

As the Insight lander touched down on the surface of Mars, dust collected on its solar panels
Credit: NASA

Want more Science and new techniques delivered straight to your inbox? Register for Mashable Top Stories Newsletter today.

Then the team received a bit more bad news last month. A severe dust storm swept across much of Mar’s southern hemisphere. Insight dropped from around 400 watt-hours per Martian day to less than 300.

“Unfortunately, since that’s how a big dust stormit actually emits a lot of dust into the atmosphere and drastically reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the solar panels,” said Bruce Banerdt, Insight principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

But NASA thinks scientists will continue to learn a lot about past climatic conditions on Mars and when and how ice was buried there. the fresh craterwhich is 500 feet wide and just under 70 feet deep.

They’re convinced the ice came from Mars and not the meteor, said Ingrid Daubar, a planetary scientist at Brown University who leads InSight’s impact science working group.

“An impact of this size would actually destroy the meteorite that came to hit the surface,” she said. “We wouldn’t expect much, if any, from the original impactor to survive this high-energy explosion.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *