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‘Marsquake’ Discovered on Red Planet – Mars

In November last year, NASA’s InSight probe touched the Red Planet with the aim to identify multiple quakes and to help build a clearer picture of the Mars interior structure. After days of waiting, finally, they were successful in recording one.

‘Marsquake’ Discovered on Red Planet – Mars

Scientists have detected the first known seismic tremor on Mars. The discovery could now shed light on the ancient origins of Earth’s neighbour planet.

In November last year, NASA’s InSight probe touched the Red Planet with the aim to identify multiple quakes and to help build a clearer picture of the Mars interior structure. After days of waiting, finally, they were successful in recording one.

InSight probe picked up evidence of the quake from the faint rumble for the first time on 6th April, although it was not possible to gather any other information to make a more definitive statement about the likely source of the quake or the distance from the probe to the event. But scientists believe the source of this ‘Marsquake’ could either because of movement in a crack inside the planet or the shaking of a meteorite impact.

For now, it is a great achievement, as Bruce Banerdt of NASA says, the quake detection “marks the birth of a new discipline: Martian seismology”. It is also the first recorded seismic signal detected on the surface a planetary body other than the Earth and the moon.

Now the researchers can compare this with Earth’s internal rock layering to know about the different ways in which these two worlds have evolved. The team also hopes to gather some more information about the activity at the centre of the planet Mars, which may provide insight into its formation billions of years ago.

Interestingly, InSight’s scientists say that the character of the rumble seems similar to the type of data the Apollo sensors collected from the lunar surface. Between 1969 to 1977, Astronauts installed five seismometers to measure thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon.

This time NASA’s InSight’s seismometer system is working in coordination with French (low-frequency) and British (high-frequency) sensors.

Prof Tom Pike, who leads the British side of the seismometer package, said, “It is probably only a Magnitude 1 to 2 event, perhaps within 100km or so. There are a lot of uncertainties on that, but that’s what it’s looking like”.

Pike also explains that, given the time taken to make this first detection, it also suggests that InSight may record another dozen or so seismic signals in the initial operating period.

As he says, “When you have got one, you don’t know whether you were just lucky, but when we see two or three we will have a better idea”. The researcher of the Imperial College London also says, “Of course, if the other three are confirmed then we could be looking at quite a large number of detections over the next two years”.

Meanwhile, the InSight probe had picked up three similar, which are recorded by the low-frequency sensors - on 14 March (Sol 105), 10 April (Sol 132) and 11 April (Sol 133). However, these were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and thus, InSight scientists do not have the confidence yet to claim them as real seismic events.


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