The audio reveals what it sounds like when space rocks crash into Mars

The audio reveals what it sounds like when space rocks crash into Mars

When you think of a space rock hurtling into a planet, you might think of an agonizing sound. But according to a new sound from NASA, it happens 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, stationed on Mars since 2018, picked up seismic waves from four different moments from 2020 to 2021 when a space rock crashed into the red planet. Not only did the details provide an exciting new look 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.

September 5, 2021 was the first time they were able to capture the sounds and vibrations associated with an accident. This case was the first time that scientists felt that “Great Quake” caused by a space rock and the first time in general that seismic signals from a meteoroid impact on another planet have been detected.

It also turned out to be the most “dramatic” of the crashes measured, NASA said, when the meteoroid exploded into at least three shards that each made 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 crashes onto the Martian surface.

And why does it make a strange noise rather than a deafening smack? NASA says it’s due to a “peculiar” effect of Mars’ atmosphere that occurs when bass sounds precede higher-pitched ones.

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

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

After making this discovery, NASA was able to go back through previously recorded data and found three more confirmed meteorite crashes – on May 27, 2020, February 18, 2021 and August 31, 2021.

All the crash sites were between 53 and 180 miles away from the InSight lander and produced small quakes with magnitudes no greater than 2.0, according to the agency, whose findings were published in Nature Geoscience on Monday.

And although they were only able to confirm four space rock crash landings with the data, scientists expect that many more have given the current and composition of Mars. The planet is near the solar system’s primary asteroid belt, NASA said, making collisions with asteroids more likely. And because the planet’s atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, more space rocks are able to pass through without disintegrating and crashing onto the surface.

The details are there too.

InSight’s seismometer has detected more than 1,300 earthquakes up to thousands of miles away in the past few years on the red planet. The instrument’s staff think it’s because other conditions, such as wind noise or seasonal atmospheric changes, prevent them from detecting other shock waves.

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

“These impacts are the clocks of the solar system,” said lead study author Raphael Garcia. “We need to know the impact rate today to estimate the age of the various surfaces.”

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