Two NASA spacecraft have recorded the longest meteor strikes and effect craters on Mars ever.
One of the spacecraft is on the surface of Mars. The other orbits the planet.
The effects produced last year seismic waves that traveled thousands of kilometers across Mars. These are the first seismic waves scientists have ever found near the surface of another planet. The impacts produced craters nearly 150 meters wide, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science.
The larger of the two blows threw out large chunks of ice. This information may help researchers find ways for future astronauts to use the natural resources of Mars.
The Insight spacecraft measured the seismic waves, while the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provided pictures of the craters.
Liliya Posiolova of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego is one of the study’s researchers. He said the scientists were lucky to be able to match the seismic waves with photographs of the impact craters.
The atmosphere of Mars is thin. On Earth, the dense atmosphere prevents most space rocks from reaching the ground. Instead, rocks break up and burn up in the atmosphere.
InSight is nearing the end of its life. Its power equipment is covered in dust from storms on Mars and is failing. InSight landed on Mars in 2018 and has since recorded more than 1,300 mars. Earthquake is similar to earthquake.
Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the spacecraft’s chief scientist involved in the studies, estimated that the craft had four to eight more weeks before running out of power.
The space rocks were between 5 and 12 meters wide, Posiolova said. The larger of the two struck last December about 3,500 kilometers from InSight, creating a crater about 21 meters deep. The Orbiter’s cameras showed material thrown within 40 kilometers of the impact. They also showed white patches of ice around the crater, the coldest water seen at such low levels geographic latitudesPosiolova said.
Posiolova found the crater earlier this year after taking additional photos of the area from orbit. The crater was missing from earlier photos. After looking at older photos, the scientist dated the impact to late December. He also recalled a major seismic event recorded by InSight at the time. With the help of the Insight team, Posiolova connected the new hole with the strike.
Scientists also learned that the aircraft and the orbiter recorded a previous meteorite impact. It was more than double the distance in December and a bit shorter.
“Everyone was shocked and amazedPosiolova recalled.
Seismic measurements from the two impacts show a denser layer of soil on Mars beyond InSight’s position.
Doyeon Kim of the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich in Switzerland was part of the research. He said scientists still have a lot to learn about the deep structure of Mars.
Foreign scientists said future aircraft landings from Europe and China would carry even more advanced equipment to detect seismic waves.
I’m Andrew Smith.
Marcia Dunn wrote this story for The Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in this story
meteor –n. A piece of rock that flies to a planet from space
effect –n. the sudden, often strong impact of something or the physical area where one object has struck another object
crater –n. a hole in the ground created by the impact of an object such as a meteorite or bomb
seismic –adj. referring to tremors or vibrations of a planet’s surface in events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or explosions
latitude –n. the distance of a location from a planet’s equator
amaze –v. to be filled with sudden surprise, to surprise
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