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NASA's InSight Mission Detects Its First Marsquake

Ever since NASA's InSight mission placed its dome-shaped seismometer onto the dusty Martian surface in December, hoping that the robotic lander would quickly detect its first Martian quake, or "marsquake." Well, the wait is finally over – the mission's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) confirmed its first faint rumble coming from inside the red planet on April 6 (on the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), confirming that Mars is seismically active. "We've been waiting for a signal like this," Philippe Logonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France, said in a NASA statement. "It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them." NASA hopes to use seismic signals like these to give Mars a health check of sorts. Like a doctor stethoscope on their patient's chest, InSight is doing something similar: It's trying to "hear" what makes the planet "tick." On Earth, the cacophony of seismic signals bouncing around our planet's interior become distorted as they encounter regions of different densities. By measuring these seismic waves, we have learned about the different, unreachable layers deep underground. Mars' interior is something of an enigma; The planet doesn't have a global magnetic field because it has a full understanding and its volcanic activity was extinguished hundreds of millions of years ago. If the planet is geologically (or more accurately, "areologically") dead,…

Ever since NASA’s InSight mission placed its dome-shaped seismometer onto the dusty Martian surface in December, hoping that the robotic lander would quickly detect its first Martian quake, or “marsquake.” Well, the wait is finally over – the mission’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) confirmed its first faint rumble coming from inside the red planet on April 6 (on the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission), confirming that Mars is seismically active.

“We’ve been waiting for a signal like this,” Philippe Logonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France, said in a NASA statement. “It’s so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We’re looking forward to sharing detailed results once we’ve had a chance to analyze them.” NASA hopes to use seismic signals like these to give Mars a health check of sorts. Like a doctor stethoscope on their patient’s chest, InSight is doing something similar: It’s trying to “hear” what makes the planet “tick.” On Earth, the cacophony of seismic signals bouncing around our planet’s interior become distorted as they encounter regions of different densities. By measuring these seismic waves, we have learned about the different, unreachable layers deep underground.

Mars’ interior is something of an enigma; The planet doesn’t have a global magnetic field because it has a full understanding and its volcanic activity was extinguished hundreds of millions of years ago. If the planet is geologically (or more accurately, “areologically”) dead, how can it produce marsquakes at all? It’s thought that as the planet cools, it shrinks, crackling with small quakes that echo throughout the Martian interior. Mission scientists also want to list for meteorite impacts that will produce their own mini-templates, perhaps turning InSight into a real-time meteorite detector.

Until now, marsquakes were a theoretical possibility, but now that we know they are there, they can be used by InSight to understand what lies beneath the planet’s surface.

According to mission scientists, this first is a pipsqueak and nothing like the tremors we are used to in Southern California. On Mars, however, this weak quake stands out in the comparative silence of Mars’ quiet innards. Other seismic signals have been heard (on March 1

4, April 10, and April 11), but their origins are more ambiguous.

Although the April 6 was too weak to be used for gaining much information about the Martian interior , scientists are excited as we have seen something like it before – on the moon.

“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions, “Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

During the Apollo program, astronauts placed five seismometers on the lunar surface, which detected thousands of” moonquakes “between 1969 and 1977. These seismic waves helped scientists learn about the lunar interior and even helped model its formation. Although InSight is just one seismometer on Mars, scientists hope that it will give us a window into the mysterious Martian interior that we know so little about.

“InSight’s first readings on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt or NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a press release. “We’ve been collecting background noise up to now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”

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