Whether it was through a movie or reality, humans have always wondered what it would be like if a significant space rock hit Earth.
Believe it or not, space material is always hitting our planet; NASA says scientists estimate 48.5 tons of it do every day. Even though material like meteors, also known as fireballs, have been known to cause a loud “boom” or light up the sky, it is rare to hear the material actually hitting the Earth’s surface.
But on neighboring Mars, NASA says, scientists were able to “hear” what it sounds like when space rocks hit a planet.
NASA’s InSight lander, which has been studying Mars’ interior since touching down on the surface in 2018, was able to detect seismic waves from four space rocks that hit the planet in 2020 and 2021, marking the first time such waves have ever been detected on Mars. The researchers’ findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience on Monday.
The lander was spared when a space rock hit Mars on Sept. 5, 2021; the spaceship was 53 to 180 miles away from the impact zone. The rock broke into three pieces before hitting the surface.
But InSight has a seismometer to detect any “Marsquakes” on the planet. After recording the impact, NASA sent its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to confirm the location and found the craters for all three space rock pieces.
“After three years of InSight waiting to detect an impact, those craters looked beautiful,” Ingrid Daubar, co-author of the paper and planetary scientist at Brown University, said in a statement.
Later observations found the InSight lander detected impacts in May 2020, February 2021 and August 2021.
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Not only did the lander detect the meteorite strike, but it also was able to record the sound of the Sept. 5, 2021, impact.
In the audio clip from the lander’s seismograph, you can hear three “bloops,” one for when the meteorite enters Mars’ atmosphere, one for when it breaks into pieces and one when it hits the planet. Mars’ atmosphere is 1% as thick as Earth’s, NASA says, so meteorites hardly disintegrate before impact.
You can listen to it here:
The impact, along with the three other confirmed strikes, created “Marsquakes” with a magnitude smaller than 2.0.
Although this was the first time a meteorite strike was detected, researchers wonder why they haven’t found more; Mars is next to our solar system’s main asteroid belt, which gives it a greater chance of being hit.
The InSight lander will soon be shut down because of dust buildup on its solar panels. It will operate until then, but NASA estimates it will shut down between October and January 2023.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.