Thursday, 19 September, 2019

NASA lander detects first likely 'Marsquake' on the red planet

‘Marsquake’ detected on Red Planet for very first time Listen up: We’ve detected our first marsquake
Sandra Phillips | 24 April, 2019, 16:38

Scientists just felt the Red Planet move under their feet - robotically from millions of miles away, on the stark surface of Mars.

The breakthrough came almost five months after InSight, the first spacecraft designed specifically to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down on the surface of Mars to begin its two-year seismological mission on the red planet.

SEIS works by measuring tiny vibrations on the order of the sub-atomic scale from waves caused by marsquakes, meteorite impacts striking the Martian surface and dust storms.

"In some ways, InSight is like a scientific time machine that will bring back information about the earliest stages of Mars' formation 4.5 billion years ago", said JPL's Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator.

While news of a marsquake is thrilling, the seismometer has a lot more listening to do. But then, a deeper sound emerges, recorded by the lander's seismometer that was installed on the Red Planet's surface in December.

The American space agency's InSight robotic probe picked up the faint rumble on Mars on April 6, the lander's 128th Martian day, or sol.

InSight's lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said this carries out the scientific work begun by the Apollo moonwalkers almost a half-century ago.

Scientists said that this rumble was similar to the moonquakes detected by the Apollo mission.

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Given the time taken to make this first detection, it might suggest InSight should record another dozen or so seismic signals in the initial operating period, explained Prof Pike.

"We've been waiting months for our first marsquake", said Philippe Lognonne, a French planetary seismologist who leads the team that runs the instrument. "We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them". Different materials can change the speed of seismic waves or reflect them, allowing scientists to use these waves to learn about the interior of the Moon and model its formation.

Three other apparent seismic signals were picked up by InSight on March 14, April 10 and April 11 but were even smaller and more ambiguous in origin, leaving scientists less certain they were actual marsquakes.

The April 6 quake was very small, meaning it didn't provide much insight into the Martian interior.

Mars and the moon lack tectonic plates.

InSight's Seismometer on the Martian Surface: This image shows InSight's domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer.

It aims to identify multiple quakes, to help build a clearer picture of Mars' interior structure.

Mars and the moon don't have tectonic plates, which is the cause of quakes on Earth; their quakes are caused by cooling and contraction, which create stress fractures on the crust.

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