In terms of seismic events on the red planet (or indeed on any other planet besides Earth), this is the largest on record yet: NASA’s InSight lander has recorded a “monster” of a marsquake, which is estimated to have reached magnitude 5. on the scale used on Earth.
That beats the previous record holder, a magnitude 4.2 marsquash that Insight recorded on August 25, 2021. The new quake occurred on Mars on May 4 of this year, the 1222nd sol (or Martian day) of the lander mission. landing.
A magnitude 5 earthquake on Earth would be classified as moderate, causing only minor damage. However, it is right at the upper end of the size of earthquakes that scientists are discovering on Mars, due to less seismic activity.
Right now we don’t know what caused the marsquake or where exactly it originated on the Red Planet, but it’s already of great interest to researchers. It adds to the more than 1,300 earthquakes Insight has detected since landing in November 2018.
By studying the seismic waves that travel through Mars, scientists hope to learn more about the planet’s crust, mantle and core. That, in turn, should inform understanding of how Mars (and other similar planets, like Earth) formed in the first place.
“Ever since we installed our seismometer in December 2018, we’ve been waiting for ‘the big one,'” says planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and leader of the InSight mission.
“This earthquake is sure to provide a view of the planet like no other. Scientists will analyze this data to learn new things about Mars for years to come.”
As seaquakes are usually not as violent as earthquakes, they are more difficult to detect and other vibrations (from the wind, for example) can interfere with the readings. With that in mind, InSight is equipped with a highly sensitive seismometer called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structures.
Volcanic activity is also believed to be generating seismic waves on Mars, and experts continue to identify new patterns in the data that Insight and its seismometer have already recorded and sent back to Earth.
With that in mind, you can expect to hear a lot more about the data collected by Insight on May 4, 2022, in the future, but for now it’s clear that the quake is a record, and well above average than it would normally be. . expected on Mars.
Unfortunately, Insight has now run into some technical difficulties: With the onset of Martian winter and rising dust levels in the air, the lander is struggling to get enough sunlight on the solar panels that power it.
As a result, the machine has been put into safe mode for the time being. This hibernation shuts down all but the most essential features, and it may be some time before we hear anything from Insight again.