Possible 'marsquake' detected for first time on red planet

Enlarge Image The InSight seismometer prior to receiving its protective cover.                  NASA  JPL-Caltech

For the first time, NASA's Mars InSight lander has successfully recorded and measured what seems to be a tremor on the red planet.

According to a statement from the government space agency, the lander recorded the signal on Martian soil on April 6, InSight's 128th day on Mars.

And, according to Bruce Bannard, of the US NASA space agency, the first reported natural disaster has begun a new discipline in science - Seismology on Mars.

Three other seismic signals occurred on 14 March, 10 April and 11 April, but were smaller than the 6 April event and more ambiguous in origin.

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The quiet Martian subsurface enables SEIS to detect and track very small quakes that would not be noticeable on Earth, where seismic noise is a regular occurrence.

A plot twist has happened in the "Martian chronicles" of NASA's InSight mission, which apparently detected the first signs of seismic activity on Mars.

"We've been waiting months for a signal like this", said SEIS team leader Philippe Lognonne of France's Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP).

The popular opinion among geologists is that the quakes on Mars and the Moon doesn't have to do with tectonic plates at all. "We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyse them". "It will help us learn how rocky bodies form, including Earth, its moon, and even planets in other solar systems".

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As indicated by Bruce Banerdt, the principle investigator on the InSight mission, the discovery of "Marsquakes" commences another field of study - Martian seismology. Regardless of its cause, the Sol 128 signal is an exciting milestone for the team. He adds that it is exciting to finally have evidence that Mars is still active, seismic-wise.

But the Sol 128 signal, as well as being stronger, is interesting for another reason: it bears a strong similarity to the seismic profile of moonquakes detected by surface seismometers between 1969 and 1977 - the devices were stationed there by astronauts from the Apollo missions. It is extremely sensitive, and it is protected from the Red Planet's wind and extreme temperature swings by the Wind and Thermal Shield.

To prevent external noise from interfering with the readings, the SEIS instrument, positioned near the Martian equator, was placed inside a dome that keeps out faint noises from the wind and infamous Martian dust storms.

Key components of SEIS are three seismic sensors developed by Imperial College London, Oxford University and the RAL Space laboratory in Didcot with £4 million funding from the UK Space Agency.

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