On Dec. 24, 2021, a magnitude 4 marsquake rocked the Red Planet, triggering sensors on NASA’s Insight lander. Now, scientists know exactly what shook things up. Before and after images captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter confirmed it was a meteoroid impact –— the largest on record in the entire solar system.
The impact crater, which measures 492 feet (150 meters) across and 70 feet (21 meters) deep and is located near the Martian equator, now offers scientists a rare peek at subsurface Mars. Moreover, boulder-sized chunks of ice that were dislodged and exposed by the blow represent the lowest-altitude ice ever found on the planet. The details of the impact and the events that followed were described in two studies published in the journal Science on Thursday (Oct. 27).
While larger craters exist on the Red Planet, they were formed long before NASA started scouring Mars 16 years ago, so there are no images or seismic data to explain their origin. This quake and crater represent the largest meteoroid impact ever recorded.
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