NASA’s confirms quakes and aftershocks are commonplace on Mars

James Marshall
February 27, 2020

Now, there's no need to wonder anymore.

New data gleaned from the magnetic sensor aboard NASA's InSight spacecraft is offering an unprecedented close-up of magnetic fields on Mars.

For 15 months NASA's InSight robot craft scoured the surface of Earth's neighbor, and measured hundreds of so-called "Marsquakes".

The InSight lander was created to study martian seismology, geophysics, meteorology and magnetism. At its landing on the Red Planet, it experienced ground tremble, cyclones shred across the field, and unexpected bursts of air shoot past like "atmosphere tsunamis".

"We don't have information from our quakes that say that this is what's going on".

The existence of seismic activity on Mars had always been suspected but until now had not been definitively detected. Another followed some 80 minutes later.

A magnitude 4 event in the United Kingdom will occur on average roughly every two years.

They originated from a topographically dynamic region known as Cerberus Fossae, around 1,000 miles east of Elysium Planitia.

"Mars has offered us many new puzzles and we have to come up with some great new theories to understand all that data", said Sue Smrekar, the mission's deputy principal investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Dr. Johnson said that the local geology may have led to a stronger-than-average field at the particular spot where InSight landed, but the result has broader implications.

Mars NASA InSight-2
NASA’s confirms quakes and aftershocks are commonplace on Mars

The 24 largest quakes mentioned within the paper exclusively reached a magnitude three or 4, which on Earth, is perhaps highly effective sufficient to be felt as a rumble on the bottom however normally aren't sturdy sufficient to trigger severe injury.

A pair of quakes was strongly linked to one such region, Cerberus Fossae, where scientists see boulders that may have been shaken down cliffsides.

"If you just take a simple model of Mars, you wouldn't expect it to be hot enough inside to be producing magma". The InSight's recordings include records from the onboard weather station, which identified more than 10,000 cyclones in the lander's proximity. Also, since tremors on Mars or Marsquakes occur at a much deeper layer beneath the surface than on Earth, they appear to be slightly weaker.

Be smart: Mars doesn't have plate tectonics the way Earth does.

"The other 24 have dominantly low-frequency content, and their spectral shapes follow the same scaling laws as earthquakes and moonquakes, leading us to conclude that they are of tectonic origin", wrote a team of scientists in a paper summing up the results. The spacecraft's primary sensor has now pulled in the first ever direct measurements of seismic activity on Mars, which mission scientists can use as window to better understand the planet's insides and its potential to harbor life. As these waves propagate through a planet, they can slow down as they move through certain materials, or bounce off others, letting seismologists infer the interior composition.

In this artist's concept of NASA's InSight lander on Mars, layers of the planet's subsurface can be seen below and dust devils can be seen in the background. Insight's measurements also suggest that Mars's magnetic field varies slightly from day to night.

In a study published today in Nature Geoscience, scientists reveal that the magnetic field at the InSight landing site is ten times stronger than anticipated, and fluctuates over time-scales of seconds to days.

Scientists still have their fingers crossed for "the Big One". By evening, the wind is gone and there is silence on the surface. Canadian Christopher Herd, a meteorite expert and professor at the University of Alberta, is among those who will help to identify which rocks the rover will sample when it lands next year in Jezero crater, including some that will be set aside for eventual return and analysis on Earth.

The mission hasn't been a complete success, however. One other instrument, a self-hammering probe that was imagined to measure the inside temperature of Mars, hasn't been as fortunate.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER