NASA’s InSight Lander Detects Record-Breaking Marsquake Caused by Fresh Meteoroid Impact, Revealing Subsurface Ice

Crater on Mars captured by HiRISE
Crater on Mars captured by HiRISE,Credit: Wikimedia/Kevin Gill

On Christmas Eve last year, NASA’s InSight lander recorded a marsquake (same as an earthquake, but on Mars, hence marsquake) of magnitude 4, which is the biggest ever detected by NASA. The cause was later discovered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which found a new crater from a relatively fresh meteoroid impact. The meteoroid is estimated to have been 16 to 39 feet (5 to 12 meters) wide.

On Earth, this meteor would have burned to dust before impact due to friction in the atmosphere. On Mars, the atmosphere is thinner, and so the impact was unimpeded. The crater had exposed subsurface ice, scattering some of it around. The images were recorded by the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Experiment) camera on the MRO. This finding can be of huge importance if humans choose to colonize Mars, as the ice will be a source of water.