• NASA's robotic probe InSight has detected and measured what scientists believe to be a "marsquake".
  • It is roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude quake back on Earth.
  • Because the Martian surface is extremely quiet, SEIS can pick up the faint rumbles. 
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NASA's robotic probe InSight has detected and measured what scientists believe to be a "marsquake". This is the first time a likely seismological tremor has been recorded on another planet, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

NASA has been looking for such seismic activity for almost five months months (or 128 Martian days) since InSight touched down on the planet, using the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument.

Scientists from the JPL  believe the sound detected came from inside the planet. While further tests are needed to prove it, they believe it was made by what would be roughly equal to a small, 2.5 magnitude quake back on Earth.

A sound like this would be lost on Earth as the surface is constantly quivering from seismic noise created by oceans, weather, and shifting tectonic plates. On this planet high-quality seismometers often are sealed in underground vaults to isolate them from changes in temperature and weather.

Source NASA/JPL-Caltech
This image, taken March 19, 2019 by a camera on NASA’s Mars InSight lander, shows the rover’s domed Wind and Thermal Shield, which covers its seismometer, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, and the Martian surface in the background. Source NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars, in contrast, doesn't have tectonic plates, which makes the surface very quiet, barring its extreme wind and temperature shifts. Scientists believe the sound is caused by a cooling and contracting effect that builds up enough energy to rupture the crust.

NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed 5 seismometers that measured thousands of quakes while operating on the Moon between 1969 and 1977, revealing seismic activity on that body.

The ‘marsquake’ launches a whole new field of science called Martian seismology.

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