But what rattled scientists — so much so that NASA decided to hold a press conference on Thursday to highlight the discovery, detailed in two parts. Leaves published In Science – is that crater-making effects have been documented by two NASA spacecraft, an orbiter and a lander. This was a great show to bring together scientific resources, with one providing a look at impact events while the other provided an ear.
The result is an extraordinary set of data about the interior of Mars, a topic of great interest to planetary scientists who want to understand why this rocky world that might have been warmer and wetter 4 billion years ago has turned into a frozen desert with no visible sign of life.
This was also an event for the record books: the largest impact crater formation on a rocky inner planet has ever been documented in the solar system was documented in real time, according to Philippe Legnone, lead author of one of the newly published research papers.
The new crater is about 150 yards wide and about 21 yards deep, and formed so violently that it hurled boulders 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) from the collision, according to Lilia Pociolova, a senior scientist at Malin Space Science Systems. Two-camera NASA Mars reconnaissance vehicle.
The probe often sees the results of small collisions, leaving an advantage in the maximum diameter a few yards. But what scientists on Busiulova’s team saw in February was by far the largest crater the probe had ever discovered. In fact, it was so big that it almost went unnoticed.
“It’s a huge feature, huge. I’ve been trained to see small features. Your eye looks for smudges,” Busiulova said.
The crater was spotted on February 11, but scientists knew they had other images of the Martian surface obtained daily, and they went back in time in search of the crater when the crater first appeared.
Busiulova remembered that another spacecraft on Mars, NASA InSight Landing VehicleA large tremor was spotted on Christmas Eve, which has been parked at the surface for four years to monitor seismic activity. Suddenly everything lined up. The first appearance of the crater in images from the orbiter coincided with the seismic signal recorded by the surface instrument.
The seismic data can then be analyzed in the context of distance to impact. This helped improve existing models from inside Mars, Lugnona said.
Busiulova said the larger of the two craters may have resulted from an object between 5 and 12 yards in diameter. She said that such an object would likely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere if it collided with our planet.
She said the origin of the meteorites is unknown, but it is possible that they came from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
“These effects are very large. But we can continue to sleep well on Earth,” Lugnonier said. “Our atmosphere protects us.”
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