NASA records sound of space rock crashing into Mars

NASA records sound of space rock crashing into Mars

NASA records sound of space rock crashing into Mars

For the first time, NASA has captured the strange sound of a meteoroid sailing through another planet’s atmosphere and crashing to the ground.

The footage, posted Sept. 19 on YouTube, combines “seismic and acoustic waves” detected when a space rock hit Mars on Sept. 5, 2021, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a press release.

The sound only lasts about 3 seconds, beginning with a whoosh – the rock flying through the sky – and ending with “bloops”.

“It was the first time the sound of a meteoroid impact was captured on another planet, and it might not be what you expect,” the lab reports.

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NASA reports that these three craters were formed on September 5, 2021 by a meteoroid impact on Mars, and were “the first to be detected by NASA’s InSight.” NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

“You hear three bloops representing different moments of the impact: the meteoroid enters the Martian atmosphere, explodes into pieces, and hits the ground. The peculiar sound is caused by an atmospheric effect also observed in deserts on Earth, where lower-pitched sounds come before high-pitched sounds.”

The meteoroid – “the term for incoming space rocks before they hit the ground” – exploded into at least three parts, leaving three different craters, scientists say.

NASA says its InSight lander picked up the seismic waves and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flew over the impact site and photographed “three dark spots on the surface.”

An article published Sept. 19 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience reports that NASA has recorded four meteoroid impacts on Mars since August 2021, “between 85 and 290 kilometers from InSight’s location.”

All four produced Martian quakes (like earthquakes) on the order of 2.0, officials say.

“Scientists have wondered why they haven’t detected more meteoroid impacts on Mars,” says NASA.

“The Red Planet is adjacent to the Solar System’s main asteroid belt, which provides an abundant supply of space rocks to scar the planet’s surface. Because Mars’ atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, many meteoroids pass through it without disintegrating, says NASA.

It’s possible more impacts have occurred since InSight landed in 2018, but they were “masked by wind noise or by seasonal changes in the atmosphere,” the InSight team says.

The paper’s lead author, Raphael Garcia from France’s Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, says that such impact sites “are the clocks of the solar system”.

“Scientists can approximate the age of a planet’s surface by counting its impact craters: the more they see, the older the surface,” he says in the press release.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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