Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Mars Is Hit By Basketball-Sized Meteorites Every Day, Shows Study

Mars is hit by a meteorite almost every day, new research has revealed. This is up to 10 times more meteorites than had been predicted, according to data from NASA’s InSight mission. The research used data from “marsquakes” or seismic activity to better understand the planet.

The study, ‘A new estimate of the impact rate on Mars from Very High-Frequency Marsquake statistics’, is published in Nature Astronomy. 

The red planet experiences around 280 to 360 basketball-sized meteorite impacts every year, typically resulting in craters over eight metres (26 feet) wide and causing surface tremors, the study said.

One of the researchers, Natalia Wojcicka from Imperial College London, said that they could piece together a timeline of Mars’ geological history and evolution by “using seismic data to better understand how often meteorites hit Mars and how these impacts change its surface.” 

“You could think of it as a sort of ‘cosmic clock’ to help us date Martian surfaces, and maybe, further down the line, other planets in the Solar System,” she said, as per Space.com

By studying the red planet, scientists can also better understand the risk meteorites pose to planet Earth. The findings will help prepare safety measures for future missions to Mars, both robotic and human. 

Ingrid Daubar, from Brown University, said that “planetary impacts” are happening across the solar system all the time. She said they were “interested in studying that on Mars” to compare and contrast with the happenings on Earth. 

The ability to detect impacts using seismic data is a significant advancement over previous methods, where research scientists relied on comparing before-and-after images of Martian surfaces from orbit, which was an inefficient process. The discovery extends beyond Mars, impacting studies of other solid bodies in our solar system, where surface ages are gauged by counting craters. The more the craters, the older the surface. 

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