Historic! Meteoroid strike on Mars! NASA InSight Lander captures UNIQUE moment

The NASA InSight Lander has detected a rare moment of a meteoroid strike on Mars. Know what it revealed about the red planet.

| Updated on: Oct 28 2022, 22:56 IST
In Pics: Plane-sized asteroid speeding towards Earth! Clocked at 47556 kmph by NASA
1/6 Asteroids have been responsible for some of the biggest events in history. From the Chelyabinsk disaster that claimed many lives to the meteor which caused the extinction of dinosaurs millions of years ago, whenever meteors have crashed on Earth, they have impacted lives. (Pixabay)
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2/6 Planetary Defense Coordination Office is responsible for monitoring the skies and keeping a watch on various Near-Earth Objects (NEOs). If any NEO comes within 8 million kilometers of Earth, the organization red flags the NEO and issues an alert. (Pixabay)
3/6 Now, NASA has red-flagged an asteroid, named Asteroid 2022 UF4, which is dangerously heading for Earth today, October 27. NASA has warned that Asteroid 2022 UF4 is nearly 140 feet wide, which is nearly the size of a commercial aircraft. (Pixabay)
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4/6 Asteroid 2022 UF4 is already on its way towards Earth travelling at a staggering speed of 47556 kilometers per hour and will just miss the planet today, October 27. The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth at a distance of just 4.5 million kilometers, according to NASA. (Pixabay)
5/6 According to the-sky.org, the Asteroid 2022 UF4 belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids. It was discovered recently on September 25. This asteroid takes 376 days to complete one trip around the Sun during which its maximum distance from the Sun is 213 million kilometers and nearest distance is 92 million kilometers. (NASA)
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6/6 NASA currently has a NEO Observations Program in place to track, and characterize at least 90 percent of the NEOs that are 140 meters or larger in size. Most of the asteroids are observed with the help of the NEOWISE Project which repurposed NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer to work as a survey telescope and scan the sky for Near-Earth Objects. (NASA)
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NASA InsSight Lander got a rare opportunity to spot a meteoroid strike on Mars. (AFP)

While meteoroids, small pieces of asteroids or comets, keep hitting and getting burnt in the upper atmosphere of the Earth, an actual strike to the ground is a rare event. If these meteoroids survive the atmosphere, and hit the Earth, they are called meteorites. These strikes happen on every planet in the solar system. This is why the latest observation by the NASA InSight Lander, which went to Mars in November 2018 to study the deep interior of the planet, is extremely special. The robotic lander had the opportunity to witness a strike on the red planet and noticed the minutest changes the planet underwent after the impact. Read on to know all about it.

NASA reported about this recent discovery in a blog post where it revealed that when it struck Mars, “the lander felt the ground shake during the impact while cameras aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted the yawning new crater from space”.

Mars gets struck by a meteoroid, InSight Lander witnesses

While experiencing such a moment itself is a great achievement, the lander also managed to collect some interesting data as well. The meteoroid struck the red planet in December 2021, but initially the scientists were not sure about it. As the Lander did not technically see the event happening, what it felt was an earthquake of magnitude 4.

Scientists later looked at the before-and-after images from NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and determined that the quake emerged from a meteoroid strike. According to the report, the meteoroid is expected to be between 16 to 39 feet (5 to 12 meters) in size.

Interestingly, the same sized meteoroid would have burnt up in Earth's atmosphere, but since Mars has a thin atmosphere layer protecting the planet, the space rock was able to hit the surface.

Notably, the images and seismic data revealed that this was one of the largest craters ever witnessed forming on any place in the solar system.

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First Published Date: 28 Oct, 18:42 IST