NASA Just Recorded A 'Monster' Quake on Mars And It Is The Biggest Ever on Another Planet

NASA's InSight lander detected a "monster" marsquake with an estimated magnitude of 5 on Earth's scale.

This is the largest seismic event yet recorded on Mars (or any planet other than Earth).

This surpasses the previous record, a magnitude-4.2 marsquake detected by Insight on August 25, 2021. The latest tremor occurred on Mars on May 4, 2018, the 1,222nd sol (or Martian day) of the lander's mission.

A magnitude 5 earthquake on Earth would be considered modest and would only cause little damage. As a result of reduced seismic activity, however, the magnitude of these tremors is at the top limit of what scientists are seeing on Mars.

It is yet unknown what triggered the marsquake or where on the red planet it originated, but it is already of great interest to scientists. It adds to the more than 1,300 earthquakes identified by Insight since its arrival in November 2018.

By examining the seismic waves traversing Mars, scientists expect to understand more about the crust, mantle, and core of the planet. This should influence our knowledge of how Mars (and other comparable planets, such as Earth) first originated.

The full marsquake spectrogram. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich)

"Since we set our seismometer down in December 2018, we've been waiting for 'the big one'," says planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, and the leader of the InSight mission.

"This quake is sure to provide a view into the planet like no other. For several years, scientists will analyse this data to discover new information about Mars."

As marsquakes are often less intense than earthquakes, they are more difficult to detect, and other vibrations, like those caused by the wind, might interfere with measurements. Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure is a very sensitive seismometer installed on InSight for this reason.

Seismic waves may potentially be generated by volcanic activity on Mars, and specialists continue to uncover new patterns in the data that Insight and its seismometer have previously sent to Earth.

In light of this, you can expect to learn much more about the data acquired by Insight on May 4, 2022, in the future, but for the time being, it's evident that the quake is a record-breaker – and far more intense than what would ordinarily be anticipated on Mars.

Due to the advent of the Martian winter and rising dust levels in the atmosphere, the solar panels that power Insight are failing to get sufficient sunlight.

Consequently, the computer has entered safe mode for the time being. It might be some time before we hear from Insight again since this hibernation disables all but the most critical operations.

Reference(s): NASA

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