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NASA's InSight lander detects first likely Marsquake

24 Apr 2019, 12:42 ( 1 Month ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
Photo provided by NASA on Nov. 26, 2018 shows the first image taken by NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars after its landing. NASA's InSight spacecraft touched down safely on Mars on Monday, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet. Photo Xinhua/NASA/JPL-CALTECH.

NASA's Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever what appears to be a "Marsquake," NASA said in a release on Tuesday.

   The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6, the lander's 128th Martian day.

   This is the first recorded tremor that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind, according to NASA.

   Scientists are still examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

   A video and audio clip were posted on the NASA website, illustrating the seismic event recorded by InSight's SEIS. The instrument measured three distinct events, namely, Martian wind, Marsquake and the spacecraft's robotic arm as it moves to take pictures.

   The audio was produced from two sets of sensors on the SEIS. According to the mission team, audio from both sets of sensors has been sped up by a factor of 60. The actual vibrations on Mars would not have been audible to the human ear.

   Three other seismic signals that occurred on March 14, April 10 and April 11 have also been detected by SEIS' more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors.

   These signals were even smaller than the April 6 Marsquake and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause, according to NASA.

   "We've been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

   The new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight's main objectives, according to the mission team.

   The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS to pick up faint rumbles. In contrast, Earth's surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather, according to NASA.

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

   "It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active," said Lognonne. "We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them."

   The SEIS, which InSight placed on the planet's surface on Dec. 19 last year, will enable scientists to gather similar data about Mars. By studying the deep interior of Mars, they hope to learn how other rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon, formed.

   InSight, the first mission to explore Mars' deep interior, landed in the Elysium Planitia of Mars on Nov. 26, 2018. It will investigate processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system more than 4 billion years ago.