A NASA lander on Mars has captured the vibrations and sounds of four meteoroids striking the planet’s surface.
Scientists reported Monday that Mars InSight detected seismic and acoustic waves from a series of impacts in 2020 and 2021. A satellite orbiting the Red Planet confirmed the impact sites were up to 180 miles from the lander.
Scientists are excited about the discoveries – a first for another planet.
The first confirmed meteoroid exploded into at least three parts, each leaving its own crater. An 11-second audio snippet of that beat includes three “bloops,” as NASA calls them, one that sounds like metal flapping loudly in the wind here on Earth.
“After waiting three years for InSight to spot an impact, these craters looked beautiful,” said Ingrid Daubar of Brown University, a co-author of the research in the journal Nature Geoscience, in a statement.
Given Mars’ proximity to the asteroid belt and the planet’s thin atmosphere, which tends to keep space-penetrating rocks from burning, the InSight team expected numerous meteorite impacts. But the lander’s French-built seismometer may have missed impacts due to disruptive noise from the Martian winds or seasonal changes in the atmosphere. Now, according to NASA, scientists know what to look for, likely leading to a spate of discoveries.
“Impacts are the clocks of the solar system,” French lead author Raphael Garcia said in a statement from the Higher Aerospace Institute in Toulouse. “Today, we need to know the impact rate to estimate the age of various surfaces.”
Launched in 2018, InSight has already detected more than 1,300 marsquakes. The largest measured a magnitude of 5 earlier this year. For comparison: The marsquakes caused by the meteorite impacts registered no more than a magnitude of 2.