WATCH: Scientists Reveal the ‘Rare’ Impacts After Large Meteoroid Hits Mars

by Taylor Cunningham
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NASA scientists on Oct. 27 revealed that two of its Mars rovers detected a major quake on the red planet. And it left behind a crater larger than any ever found in our solar system.

Mars insight actually recorded the magnitude 4 tremor on Dec. 24. But it wasn’t until this month that scientists realized what caused it—a massive meteoroid.

During a press conference, members of the NASA Mars team said they believe the meteoroid was the biggest to strike the planet since the administration began studying outer space. And it left behind a crater larger than they’ve seen from past strikes.

They were able to determine the size thanks to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Insight Mars lander. The robots measured the impact site and recorded the sound from the crash.

“The meteoroid excavated boulder-size chunks of ice buried closer to the Martian equator than ever found before – a discovery with implications for NASA’s future plans to send astronauts to the Red Planet,” scientists said.

The Fresh Crater is ‘More Than Ten Times Larger’ Than Any Others on Mars

Reconnaissance also captured before and after pictures of the enormous crater, which gave NASA a “rare opportunity” to study the event.

“When we compare seismic epicenter with the location that we pinpointed from the orbit and the time we were able to match this large seismic event to our large impact crater, this is by far the largest jointly observed crater recorded seismically and observed from the image from the orbit,” said Liliya Posiolova.

NASA estimates that the space rock was over 39 feet and it created a crater spanning 492 feet across and 70 feet deep. When it hit, the force was so strong that it threw dirt and rock as far as 23 miles.

“It’s about two city blocks across. And even though meteorites are hitting the planet all the time, this crater is more than ten times larger than the typical new craters we see forming on Mars,” said Ingrid Daubar, a scientist with Brown University who heads InSight’s Impact Science Working Group. “We thought a crater of this size might form somewhere on the planet once every few decades, maybe once a generation.”

Insight actually felt the moment that the meteor made its impact and used a seismometer to record the waves that spread across the crust of Mars.

“It’s unprecedented to find a fresh impact of this size,” Daubar continued. “It’s an exciting moment in geologic history, and we got to witness it.”