NASA’s Newest Martian Lander Feels What Appears To Be A Marsquake

Mars surface

In four instances, NASA’s InSight Lander detected small shifts that appear to be coming from within Mars. The April 6th event is the most likely marsquake of the bunch. The mission team put the data together so we could hear the likely marsquake. The video below shows the possible tremor flanked by two other sounds – the wind on Mars’ surface, and the lander’s robotic arm moving.

Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters, explains why this event stands out from the other three. “The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions.”

The other three seismic signals are smaller and could be caused by some other source like the Lander itself or wind on Mars’ surface. The team plans to study the signals carefully to figure out their cause.

Philippe Lognonné, who serves as the SEIS (seismic instrument) team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France, is excited about the April 6th signal. “We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Lognonné. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.”

InSight’s ultimate mission on the red planet is to use these marsquakes to study the interior of the planet. Different materials react to seismic waves differently, allowing the InSight team to figure out what lies within Mars. And determine what kind of processes are still shaping the planet’s interior today.

Unfortunately, the likely marsquake you hear above was too small to tell us anything about what’s beneath Mars’ surface. NASA likened the event to the dozens of tiny earthquakes that hit Southern California every day.

NASA’s InSight will wait patiently for more marsquakes to reveal the evolution of Mars until at least November 2020.

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