NASA InSight SURPRISE: Mars lander detects first MARSQUAKE

InSight is NASA's Mars lander and it is built to give Earth’s nearest neighbour its first thorough assessment since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. Insight’s objective is examine in-depth the interior of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. And in a groundbreaking discovery Insight has felt the ground shake for the first time.

NASA’s InSight placed a seismometer on the surface to monitor for quakes in the month after landed on Mars in November 2018.

Marsquakes will unlock the secrets lying under the Red Planet’s mysterious interior, including what its mantle, crust, and core are constructed of.

Its cutting-edge seismometer is among the most sensitive ever made and is capable of detect shifts in the ground less than the thickness of an atom.

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

NASA Professor Philippe Lognonne said: “In the best station on the Earth, a station which is in a seismic vault deep down, you might be able to detect this quake.”

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However the measurement was able to supply some basic information about how marsquakes compare to its cousins here on Earth.

Professor Lognonne added: “The first surprise we got with the marsquake is that it had more similarity to a moonquake than to an earthquake.

“On Earth the duration of the signal is a few minutes, on the moon it’s closer to an hour, and on Mars it’s around ten minutes.”

This is because the rocks on Earth are full of water, which absorbs the shock of seismic activity better than dry ground, shortening the signal.

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The first marsquake detected indicates the shallow subsurface of Mars contains far less water than Earth – but Mars is no where near as dry as the Moon.

InSight also detected three even smaller seismic signals in March and April, so weak that even the best detector on Earth would never have been able to spot them.

One of these signals may be from wind jostling the seismometer above ground, but the other two seem to be either from marsquakes or from the ground shaking slightly as meteorites hit the surface.

NASA launched InSight nearly a year ago, and the lander settled into its new home at Elysium Planitia on Mars in November 2018.

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InSight is on a mission to study the interior of Mars to help us learn more about how rocky planets are formed.

While news of a marsquake is thrilling, the seismometer has a lot more listening to do.

The National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) said: ”The seismic event is too small to provide useful data on the Martian interior, one of InSight's main objectives".

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