What clues do the newly formed craters on Mars reveal?

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An international team of researchers with NASA’s InSight mission recently located four new craters created by impacts on the surface of Mars. Using data from a seismometer and visuals acquired from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the researchers successfully calculated and confirmed the impact locations. This is the first time that researchers have been able to capture the dynamics of an impact on Mars ( Nature Geoscience). Until now, researchers have never been able to capture the dynamics of an impact on Mars, where there’s a much thinner atmosphere.

As space projectiles enter the planetary atmosphere and impact the ground, the projectiles trigger both acoustic and seismic waves. The researchers used an instrument on board the InSight — SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) — to estimate the approximate locations of resulting impact sites. They then matched their approximations to visuals provided by high-resolution cameras, confirming the sites and accuracy of the team’s modelling, says a University of Maryland release.

These findings demonstrate how planetary seismology (the study of quakes and related events such as volcanic eruptions) can be used to identify sources of seismic activity. This ability may help researchers measure how often new impacts occur in the inner solar system, where both Mars and Earth reside — an observation essential to understanding the population of near-Earth objects such as asteroids or rock fragments that may pose a danger to Earth.

Determining the precise location of these impacts makes their associated acoustic and seismic waves invaluable for studying the Martian atmosphere and interior — the size and solidity of its core or its heating processes.


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