The Red Planet is seismically active. NASA’s InSight lander has reportedly detected over 450 “earthquakes.” The lander arrived on Mars on November 26, 2018. The lander has almost registered one earthquake a day on Mars.
“We’ve finally, for the first time, established that Mars is a seismically active planet,” says Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator on the InSight project.” He continues, “In fact, it’s probably close to the kind of seismic activity you would expect to find away from the [tectonic] plate boundaries on Earth and away from highly deformed areas.”
While the number of marsquakes may seem like a lot, it is less than the frequency on Earth and more than our own moon. The seismic activity is about where the scientist have expected and shows that InSight is achieving it’s mission on Mars.
InSight’s Mission On Mars
InSight was launched on May 5th, 2018 and landed six months later. The mission for InSight has been to monitor seismic activity on Mars and help scientist understand how rocky planets, like Earth, Venus and, of course, Mars form and evolve.
The lander will dig into Mars surface to better understand it’s composition. It is on a two year mission that cost $850 million.
While InSight has detected such a big number of marsquakes, they’re not all 8.0 on the Richter scale. Most of the marsquakes have been small. The bigger ones came in around a magnitude of 3 to 4. For reference, buildings on Earth are usually damaged around 5.5.
Where Earthquakes are caused by tectonic plates, Mars has had no tectonic activity in a long time. Instead, these marsquakes are caused by the cooling of the planet after it’s formation.
“As the planet cools, it contracts, and then the brittle outer layers then have to fracture in order to sort of maintain themselves on the surface,” Banerdt said. “That’s kind of the long-term source of stresses.”
InSight is only one year into it’s mission. Stay posted to Gimmie Space for everything that comes out of the InSight mission.