NASA’s InSight lander may have had its last hurrah. researchers have learned that a marsquake detected by the lander on December 24, 2021 in the Amazonis Planitia region of Mars was actually a meteorite impact – the first time a mission has witnessed cratering on the planet. Scientists found it when they looked at before-and-after images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which showed a 492-foot indentation in the landscape.
The meteoroid is believed to have been between 16 and 39 feet long. It would have burned up in Earth’s sky, but it was large enough to survive Mars’ extra-thin atmosphere. The impact was violent, digging a 70-foot hole and hurling debris up to 23 miles from the crater. It also uncovered subterranean ice never before seen so close to the Martian equator. A tone adjustment of the Insight data (below) shows how “loud” the event was compared to regular Mars activity.
Separately, one group has suggested that 20 of the roughly 1,300 marsquakes detected by InSight could be signs of magma. As gizmodo explained, the spectral signature of the tremors suggests a comparatively soft crust in the Cerberus Fossae region of Mars. This, combined with dark dust, suggests volcanic activity may have occurred on the planet over the past 50,000 years.
The discovery could help the scientific community understand Mars’ geologic timeline by defining the rate of craters appearing on the planet. It could also prove crucial for Martian colonists and explorers, who may need the subterranean ice for sustenance and rocket fuel. Human visitors might take fewer supplies or lengthen their stays.
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