NASA’s Insight lander felt the ground shaking during the impact while cameras on the Mars rover spotted the new yawning crater from space.
NASA’s InSight probe recorded an earthquake of magnitude 4 on the Richter scale last December 24, but scientists only later learned what caused the earthquake: a meteor strike is estimated to be one of the largest seen on Mars since NASA began exploring the universe. Moreover, the meteor excavated chunks of ice the size of boulders buried closer to the Martian equator than ever before—a discovery that has implications for NASA’s future plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet.
Scientists determined that the quake was caused by a meteorite impact when they looked at before-and-after images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and spotted a new crater yawning. Offering a rare opportunity to learn how a major impact shook the Earth on Mars, the event and its effects are detailed in two papers published Thursday, October 27 in Science.
It is estimated that the meteorite spanned from 16 to 39 feet (5 to 12 meters) — small enough that it would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, but not in the thinner atmosphere of Mars, which is only 1% as dense as our planet. The impact, in an area called Amazonis Planitia, created a crater approximately 492 feet (150 meters) in diameter and 70 feet (21 meters) deep. Some of the projectiles from the impact flew 23 miles (37 kilometers).
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