NASA detects seismic activity for first time on Mars

25 Avril, 2019, 18:58 | Auteur: Therese Cote

It is roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude quake back on Earth.

NASA has been looking for such seismic activity for nearly five months months (or 128 Martian days) since InSight touched down on the planet, using the lander's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument.

There are earthquakes and moonquakes, and now a NASA spacecraft has detected what's believed to be a "marsquake " on the Red Planet.

A sound like this would be lost on Earth as the surface is constantly quivering from seismic noise created by oceans, weather, and shifting tectonic plates.

"We've been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology".

Although the seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the planet's interior, the seismometer on the InSight will enable scientists to gather similar data.

NASA's Apollo astronauts installed five seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on the Moon.

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Three other seismic signals occurred on March 14, April 10 and April 11.

Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team. If confirmed, it would be the first seismic activity ever detected on Mars.

"We've been waiting months for our first marsquake", Philippe Lognonné, the principal investigator for the seismometer instrument, said in a statement released by the French space agency, which runs the instrument with the national research center. "We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them", Mr. Lognonne said.

Mars, in contrast, doesn't have tectonic plates, which makes the surface very quiet, barring its extreme wind and temperature shifts.

"The SEIS instrument deployed on Mars at the start of this year is now recording the slightest ground vibrations day and night, be they due to the atmosphere and its winds sweeping the surface or to quakes and meteorite impacts".

Stress builds over time until it has the strength to push through Mars' crust, causing a "Marsquake".

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