NASA’s InSight Lander Detects First Marsquake

The event kicks off the field of Martian seismology.

The High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express has returned images of Echus Chasma, one of the largest water source regions on the Red Planet. Echus Chasma is the source region of Kasei Valles which extends 3000 km to the north.
European Space Agency / Getty Images

The event kicks off the field of Martian seismology.

The Mars InSight Lander detected what scientist believe to be its first confirmed Marsquake.

Experts have always had a hunch that the red planet experienced quakes, but on April 6, their suspicions were confirmed when the lander measured seismic waves moving through the interior of the planet, Space.com reported.

Philippe Lognonné, the principal investigator for the seismometer instrument, said in a statement released by French space agency CNES that scientists had been waiting for the first Marsquake for months.

“It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active.”

The confirmation of a quake on Mars is a milestone because it establishes the fact that the planet is alive — at least on some level.

The seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, also detected tremors on March 14, April 10 and April 11, but experts cannot say conclusively that those quakes reflected interior activity like the one detected in early April did.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with the Apollo missions,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight Principal Investigator of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology,” he said.

While the Marsquake was not strong enough for scientists to discover much about the interior of the red planet, they expect that stronger quakes will give them this information.

Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth, which are what cause most Earthquakes. The Earth also has significantly more quakes that Mars does.

Scientists believe that Marsquakes are caused by fractures in the planet’s crust as it slowly cools and contracts. Because the planet is so quiet, the seismometer is able to detect faint sounds resulting from the quakes.

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“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES said, according to NASA.

Mars Insight is a dome-shaped probe that landed on Mars in December 2018. Its main objective is to “provide solid data on the Martian interior,” NASA reported. It can detect weather changes and movement from deep within the planet.

While scientists are excited by the fact that Mars experiences quakes, the discovery does not help them tackle the ultimate goal of the InSight mission, which is to analyze the interior structure of Mars as well as learn how Mars, the Earth and the Moon formed.