Audio reveals what it sounds like when space rocks collide on Mars

Audio reveals what it sounds like when space rocks collide on Mars

When you think of a lightning-fast space rock crashing into a planet, you might think of a ringing and vibrating sound. But according to new audio from NASA, it turns out that when it comes to a meteoroid hitting Mars, it’s more of a “bloop” than a “boom.”

NASA has been working on getting the sound for years. The space agency’s InSight lander, which has been on Mars since 2018, picked up seismic waves from four different times from 2020 to 2021 when a space rock crashed into the red planet. The data not only provided an exciting new look at: Mars and the inner workings of space, but it was also the first time seismic and acoustic activity from an impact on Mars has been detected, NASA said.

The first time they were able to capture the sounds and tremors associated with a crash was on September 5, 2021. This was the first time scientists had recorded a “marsquake” caused by a space rock and the first time in general that seismic signals from a meteoroid impact have been detected on another planet.

It was also the most “dramatic” of the crashes measured, NASA said, when the meteoroid exploded into at least three shards, each forming a crater on Mars.

The three “bloop” sounds heard in the middle of the audio above tell the story of the crash – the moment the meteoroid bursts through the Martian atmosphere, its explosion and the moment it hits the surface of Mars. crashes.

And why does it give a quirky sound instead of a deafening blow? NASA says it’s because of a “peculiar” effect of the Martian atmosphere that occurs when bass sounds arrive earlier than higher pitched ones.

These craters were formed by a meteoroid impact on Mars on September 5, 2021, the first detected by NASA's InSight.  / Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

These craters were formed by a meteoroid impact on Mars on September 5, 2021, the first detected by NASA’s InSight. / Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

After this discovery, NASA was able to go back through previously recorded data and find three other confirmed meteoroid crashes — on May 27, 2020, February 18, 2021, and August 31, 2021.

All crash sites were between 53 and 180 miles away from the InSight lander, producing small earthquakes as small as 2.0 magnitude, according to the agency, whose findings were published Monday in Nature Geoscience.

And while the data could only confirm four space rock landings, scientists expect many more given Mars’ location and composition. The planet is located next to the solar system’s primary asteroid belt, NASA said, making a collision with asteroids all the more likely. And because the planet’s atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, more space rocks can pass through it without disintegrating and crashing onto the surface.

There is also the data.

InSight’s seismometer has recorded more than 1,300 Marsquakes thousands of miles away in just a few years on the red planet. The instrument’s team thinks it’s because other conditions, such as wind noise or seasonal atmospheric changes, prevent them from detecting the waves from other collisions.

Getting more seismic data is a priority for Mars teams, as it can help scientists determine the age of the planet’s surface. The more craters there are in an area, the older that specific surface is, NASA said.

“Impacts are the clocks of the solar system,” said lead study author Raphael Garcia. “We need to know today’s impact velocity to estimate the age of various surfaces.”

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