The meteorites that collided with Mars last year sent seismic waves thousands of miles across the surface of Mars, carving out what NASA considers the largest crater found to date — nearly 500 feet in diameter.
This discovery was made possible only by data collected from the InSight lander that measured seismic shocks and the Mars Exploration Rover provided stunning images of the resulting craters.
The incoming space rocks were between 16 feet and 40 feet in diameter and recorded impacts around 4 degrees.
The orbiter’s cameras showed debris, as well as white patches of ice around the crater, the most frigid water observed at low latitudes.
Mars’ atmosphere is thin unlike Earth, where the dense atmosphere prevents most space rocks from reaching Earth, instead fracturing and burning them.
A separate study last month linked a recent series of smaller Martian meteorite collisions with smaller craters closer to InSight, using data from the same lander and orbiter.
The collision observations come as Insight nears the end of its mission due to its waning power, its solar panels covered in dust storms. InSight landed on the tropical plains of Mars in 2018 and has since recorded more than 1,300 earthquakes.
“It will be heartbreaking when we finally lose contact with Insight,” said Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was involved in the studies. “But the data you sent us will certainly keep us busy for years to come.”
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