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Study shows: Mars is hit by basketball-sized meteorites every day

Mars is hit by a meteorite almost every day, new research shows. That's up to ten times more meteorites than predicted, according to data from NASA's InSight mission. Researchers used data from “marsquakes” or seismic activity to better understand the planet.

The study, “A new estimate of the impact rate on Mars based on high-frequency Marsquake statistics,” was published in Nature Astronomy.

The Red Planet experiences about 280 to 360 basketball-sized meteorite impacts each year, typically leaving craters over eight meters in diameter and causing earthquakes on the Earth's surface, the study says.

One of the researchers, Natalia Wojcicka of Imperial College London, said they could put together a timeline of Mars' geological history and evolution by “using seismic data to better understand how often meteorites hit Mars and how these impacts change its surface.”

“You could think of it as a kind of 'cosmic clock' that helps us date the surface of Mars and perhaps later other planets in the solar system,” she said, according to Space.com.

By studying the red planet, scientists can also better understand the threat meteorites pose to planet Earth. The findings will help prepare safety measures for future missions to Mars, both robotic and human.

Ingrid Daubar of Brown University said “planetary impacts” are happening all the time throughout the solar system. She said they are “interested in studying this on Mars” to compare it to what is happening on Earth.

The ability to detect impacts using seismic data is a significant advance over previous methods, where researchers relied on comparing before-and-after images of Martian surfaces from orbit, which was an inefficient process. The discovery goes beyond Mars and has implications for studies of other solid bodies in our solar system, where surface age is determined by counting craters. The more craters, the older the surface.

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