Huge meteor hit Mars. Then NASA made an even bigger discovery.

The average earthquake that the Mars Insight rover heard was not a roar across the land of the Red Planet last Christmas Eve.

NASAApparently, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter found the source of the rumble two months after its prime location in outer space: a stunning meteorite struck more than 2,000 miles away near the equator of Mars, estimated to be one of the largest impacts observed on the neighboring planet.

But what impressed scientists, perhaps with as much or more seismic activity, was what the meteorite detected when it hit Mars — massive, boulder-sized chunks of ice erupted from its crater. So far, underground ice has not been found in this region, the warmest part of the planet.

“This is a really exciting result,” NASA director of planetary sciences, Laurie Glaese, said during a Thursday news conference. “We know, of course, that there is water ice near the poles of Mars. But in planning future human exploration of Mars, we want to land the astronauts as close to the equator as possible, and get to the ice at these low latitudes, that ice can be converted into Water, oxygen, or hydrogen. That might be really helpful.”

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discovery, recently published In two linked studies in the journal Sciencesis something of the grand finale of NASA’s Insight lander, which is loss of strength quickly. Scientists have estimated that they have approximately four to eight weeks left before they lose contact with the landing complex. At this point, the job will be over.

For the past four years, I’ve studied Insight Over 1000 swamps And collect daily weather reports. He discovered the planet big liquid heart He helped map the interior geology of Mars.

Program leaders have Prepare the audience for this result For some time. As the spacecraft sat on the surface of Mars, dust accumulated on its solar panels. Layers of grains from the Red Desert Planet blocked the rays they needed to convert into energy. The team scaled back Insight’s operations to squeeze as much science as possible before the devices went out of business.

As the InSight probe sat on the surface of Mars, dust accumulated on its solar panels
credit: NASA

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Then the team received more bad news last month. A severe dust storm swept most of the southern hemisphere of Mar. Insight shifted from about 400 watt-hours on a Sol day to less than 300.

“Unfortunately, because that is the case big dust stormBruce Banerdt, Insight Principal Investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California said:

But NASA believes that scientists will continue to learn a lot about past climatic conditions on Mars and when and how the ice was buried there from new holewhich is 500 feet wide and 70 feet deep.

They are confident the ice came from Mars, not the meteorite, said Ingrid Dubar, a planetary scientist at Brown University who leads the impact science working group at Insight.

“A collision of this magnitude will destroy the meteorite that came to hit the surface,” she said. “We wouldn’t expect much, if anything, from the original collider to survive this high-energy explosion.”

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