A meteor hit Mars, and NASA recorded the strange sound it made. Listen

For the first time, NASA has captured the strange sound of a meteor sailing through another planet’s atmosphere and crashing to Earth.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says in a press release that the recording, posted September 19 to YouTube, combines “seismic and sonic waves” detected when a space rock hit Mars on September 5, 2021.

The sound lasts only about 3 seconds, starts with a hissing sound – the rock is flying in the sky – and ends with “beats”.

“This was the first time that the sound of a meteorite impact occurring on another planet has been captured, and it may not be what you expect,” the lab reports.

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NASA reports that these three craters were formed on September 5, 2021, by a meteorite impact on Mars and were “the first detected by NASA’s Insight.” NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

“You hear three ‘beats’ that represent distinct moments from the collision: the meteor enters the Martian atmosphere, explodes into pieces, and smashes into the Earth. The strange sound is caused by an atmospheric effect also observed in deserts on Earth, where low-pitched sounds arrive before high-pitched ones.”

Scientists say the meteorite — “a term referring to space rocks coming in before they hit Earth” — exploded into at least three pieces, leaving three distinct craters.

NASA says its InSight lander captured the seismic waves and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flew over the impact site and photographed “three dark spots on the surface.”

Published September 19 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, NASA has recorded four meteorite impacts on Mars since August 2021, “between 53 and 180 miles (85 and 290 kilometers) from the InSight site.”

Officials said all four quakes produced quakes (such as earthquakes) in the 2.0-magnitude range.

“Researchers have puzzled over why they haven’t detected more meteorite impacts on Mars,” NASA says.

The red planet is located next to the main asteroid belt of the solar system, which provides an ample supply of space rocks to ravage the planet’s surface. “Because the Martian atmosphere is only 1% as thick as Earth’s, more meteorites pass through it without disintegrating,” NASA says.

The InSight team says more impacts are likely since InSight landed in 2018, but that they are “obscured by wind noise or seasonal changes in the atmosphere.”

These collision sites “are the clocks of the solar system,” says the paper’s lead author, Rafael Garcia, of the Higher Institute of Electricity and Space in Toulouse.

“Scientists can approximate the age of the planet’s surface by calculating the craters that affected it: the more they see, the older the surface is,” he says in the press release.

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Mark Price has been a reporter for the Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering topics including schools, crime, immigration, LGBT issues, homelessness and nonprofits. Graduated from the University of Memphis with a major in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.


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