May 28, 2024

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Mars probe InSight detects 3 major earthquakes on the Red Planet, including earthquakes that lasted nearly 1.5 hours |  science and planet

Mars probe InSight detects 3 major earthquakes on the Red Planet, including earthquakes that lasted nearly 1.5 hours | science and planet

The Mars InSight rover recently detected three major earthquakes on the Red Planet. One of those earthquakes lasted nearly 90 minutes and had at least five times the energy of the previous record holder in 2019. The NASA scientists on the mission were shocked when they got the data, because they are earthquakes as big as these. Teach them a lot about how rocky worlds formed and evolved, like Earth and its moon. The belief is that the robot almost had to shut down the seismometer earlier this year due to a lack of power and too much dust on the solar panels.

On Saturday, September 18, its 1,000th or Mars day, the Insight lander was sitting quietly in the vast expanses of dust on the Red Planet when the Earth suddenly began to teeter. The earthquake lasted about an hour and a half. The Mars probe immediately sent the data back to Earth using its seismometer. When researchers at NASA got the information, they realized that InSight had detected the largest and longest Martian earthquake ever during its mission.

InSight captured an earthquake measuring at least 4.2 on the Richter scale for about 90 minutes — the exact kind scientists have been hoping for since the rover touched down on the Red Planet in November 2018. More recently, there’s been more. Earthquakes: On August 25, the probe felt two shorter earthquakes of magnitude 4.2 and 4.1. Prior to that, the largest earthquake that Insight had ever experienced during the mission had a magnitude of 3.7 sometime in 2019.

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“It appears that for the number of small earthquakes on Mars, there are fewer large earthquakes than we expect. It’s a bit mysterious,” Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator at InSight, told Business Insider in April. Five times greater than the rumble of a record earthquake two years ago – the kind of clapper that could provide an important missing piece of the great Martian puzzle.

A detailed look inside


© AP

The InSight mission studies seismic waves to learn more about the interior of Mars. The waves change as they travel through the planet’s crust, mantle, and core, giving scientists a way to see deep beneath the surface, much like using X-ray waves or CT scans to get information about the inside of the human body.

A more detailed look at the interior of Mars could provide important clues about how the planet originated and evolved over time. Knowledge that could be crucial to astronomers’ efforts to find other worlds where life might be possible and to understand rocky worlds, including Earth and the Moon.

“By studying the core of Mars and looking at the crust of Mars, and understanding that it hasn’t changed much in the past 4.5 billion years, we can get a glimpse of what Earth might look like at a very early stage. Mars helps us understand how rocky planets form and how its development.”

More than 700 earthquakes

In all, InSight detected more than 700 earthquakes during its time on Mars, and together they revealed a lot about its interior. For example, researchers have found that the crust of Mars is thinner than they thought and that it resembles the crust of the Moon more than the crust of the Earth – it was torn apart by the impact of asteroids. Recently, using earthquakes, scientists have also determined that Mars has a molten core. They are not yet sure if the solid inner core is hiding behind a molten outer core, as it is on Earth.

Because Mars’ crust is dry and broken, earthquakes there last much longer than earthquakes. It bounces between cracks in the shell and there isn’t a lot of moisture to absorb. The tremors detected by InSight on Mars usually last 10 to 40 minutes.

Marslander's first InSight selfie on December 6, 2018.

Marslander’s first InSight selfie on December 6, 2018. © NASA

important rescue

The last three earthquakes wouldn’t have been noticed either, were it not for the fact that the mission earlier this year managed to keep InSight running despite many difficulties.

Mars’ highly elliptical orbit has pushed the planet away from the sun, causing the Martian rover’s temperatures to drop and to rely more on its heating for heating. In addition, significant dust buildup on InSight’s solar panels reduced the power of the probe, forcing the mission to conserve power by temporarily disabling some of the instruments.


If we hadn’t acted fast earlier this year, we would have missed out on some really good science.

The team of scientists still managed to make the seismometer work in an original and somewhat unintuitive fashion: They used the InSight robotic arm to slowly drip sand near a solar panel in the hope that the wind would morph into grains across the panel, wiping them off. Remove some dust from it. The plan worked, and through several dust removals, the team saw that the power level remained fairly stable. Completely relaxes. As Mars approaches the Sun again, the probe’s power begins to grow again.

“Had we not acted quickly earlier this year, we would have missed out on some really good science,” Bannerdt said in his response. “Even after more than two years, Mars seems to have given us something new with these large earthquakes, which also have unique characteristics.”

Much further than usual

An image of the planet Mars captured by another Mars probe, the Perseverance.

An image of the planet Mars captured by another Mars probe, the Perseverance. © AFP

While the largest September 18 earthquake is still being investigated, researchers already know a number of interesting things about the August 25 earthquake: For example, the 4.2 earthquake occurred 8,500 kilometers from InSight, the farthest the probe has seen. was discovered. It has been tracked so far. The exact location has yet to be determined, but one thing is certain: the earthquake happened so far away from its origin that the Mars rover was able to pick up nearly all of the previous major earthquakes, Cerberus Fosai, an area more than 1,600 kilometers away. Where the last lava flowed for several million years. One intriguing possibility is that the earthquake occurred in the Valles Marineris, the epic long valley system that runs through the equator of Mars.


To the surprise of scientists, the two earthquakes on August 25 were of two different types. The 4.2 earthquake had slow vibrations of low frequency, while the 4.1 earthquake was accompanied by very fast and high frequency vibrations. The second earthquake also occurred near the probe, barely 925 km. What the two have in common – besides being large samples – is that they both occurred during the day at the windiest time, and for the seismometer, the noisiest time on Mars.

Anyway, the news is all good for seismologists: being able to study different major tremors from different distances and different types of seismic waves provides more information about the planet’s internal structure.

Meanwhile, InSight continues to listen diligently and patiently to the heartbeat of Mars, hoping to discover more. Completely independent for a while, because the probe on Mars won’t receive any orders for the next three weeks, because Earth and the red planet are now on opposite sides of the Sun. This period of Solar conjunction It happens every two years.

Planet Mars.

Planet Mars. © Reuters