Science

NASA probe detects likely 'marsquake' - an interplanetary first

NASA probe detects likely 'marsquake' - an interplanetary first”

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.

Marsquake is official. The Mars InSight Lander of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration detects a tremor in the red planet for the first time. Measuring the Martian equivalent of earthquakes, seismic waves traveling through the interior of the planet, was among the lander's key science goals.

Philippe Lognonne, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, said: "We have been waiting months for a signal like this". He adds that it is exciting to finally have evidence that Mars is still active, seismic-wise. This is the first time humans have recorded quaking that originates from within the planet rather than from something on the surface. Though NASA is calling this the first likely marsquake, the space agency says three other possible seismic signals were detected on March 14, April 10, and April 11. Mars is not almost as geologically active as Earth and, like our moon, lacks tectonic plates. "We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them".

NASA's Apollo astronauts installed 5 seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on that body. The lander is created to operate on the surface of Mars for two years, learning about the Martian interior as a way to boost our understanding of the formation of Mars and other rocky worlds, including Mercury, Venus, Earth and the moon.

"InSight's first readings carry on the science that began with the Apollo missions", Insight's Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in the statement. Their seismic activity is instead driven by a cooling and contracting process that causes stress to build up and become strong enough to rupture the crust.

The audio was produced from two sets of sensors on the SEIS.

A more distant quake would yield greater information about Mars' interior because seismic waves would "penetrate deeper into the planet before they come back up to the seismometer", he said. On Mars, SEIS has a number of innovative insulating covers, such as JPL's Wind and Thermal Shield, to protect against extreme changes in temperature and high winds.

Until now, marsquakes were a theoretical possibility, but now that we know they are there, they can be used by InSight to understand what lies beneath the planet's surface.

"We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come", said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología supplied the temperature and wind sensors.



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