Marsquake: NASA Detects Seismic Activity On Mars

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InSight's seismometer, which the lander placed on the planet's surface on December 19, 2018, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. "In contrast, Earth's surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather".

For Mars, "we've been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!" The stationary 800-pound (360-kilogram) lander will use its 6-foot (1.8-meter) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground. The spacecraft has been on the surface of Mars since November as part of an ongoing mission to listen for quakes on the red planet.

The faint rumble characterised by JPL scientists as a likely marsquake, roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude natural disaster, was recorded on April 6, the lander's 128th Martian day.

Scientists from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory labelled the tremor a "Marsquake".

This quake is similar to the ones measured on the moon during the Apollo missions.

However, Weber said the events will certainly teach scientists about the nature of seismic activity on Mars and the upper layers of the planet that the waves travelled through. The two experimental satellites not only relayed the good news in nearly real time, they sent back InSight's first snapshot of Mars just 4½ minutes after landing.

As these vibrations move through the Red Planet, they bump into and reflect off of different materials underground.

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Mars and the moon lack tectonic plates.

"We've been waiting months for our first marsquake", said Philippe Lognonne, a French planetary seismologist who leads the team that runs the instrument. "While I'm looking forward to those first images from the surface, I am even more eager to see the first data sets revealing what is happening deep below our landing pads".

NASA says three other seismic signals were detected by SEIS' more sensitive "very broadband sensors" on March 14, April 10 and April 11, however scientists say these signals were even smaller than the April 6 event and more ambiguous in origin. InSight is now less than six months into its two-year primary mission, so we can expect to see many additional discoveries in the coming months.

Sadly, the Sol 128 event was too faint to tell scientists anything about the structure of Mars's interior, and here on Earth it would have been lost among the constant grumblings of tectonic activity.

While the slight quake could have been caused by wind or other external forces, the InSight team is "confident" it came from Mars itself.

As is the case with the Moon, trembling inside Mars could be caused by the slow cooling and contraction of its crust, with stress building up until it eventually breaks the crust and causes a crack.

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