NASA’s static probe InSight, which landed on the surface of Mars in late 2018, recorded three of the strongest earthquakes on the red planet so far.
On August 25, InSight recorded two shocks, magnitude 4.1 and 4.2. Then, on September 18, the 1000th day of our stay on Mars, the spacecraft recorded another earthquake, again with a magnitude of 4.2.
The previous record was 3.7 magnitude tremors in 2019. It is noteworthy that the tremors recorded in August were the farthest among those recorded so far and its epicenter was 8500 kilometers away from InSight.
Analyzes are still ongoing, but scientists are excited to be able to understand something new about the red planet’s entrails.
“Even two years later, Mars is offering something new with the thrust of these unique features,” said Bruce Banerdt, a planetary geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
InSight is a stationary probe placed on the surface of Mars and its main purpose is to detect thrusts emanating from the planet. From 2018 to date, he has provided us with a number of new information.
First of all it was a direct fixation of the shocks on Mars. This was of great importance because until then, Mars was considered a geologically dead planet. And now we know for sure that there is so much activity going on inside Mars to really erode the surface.
The second is that thrust data allows planetary scientists to study the Martian entrails. When acoustic waves are generated in the interior of Mars and propagate through material of different densities, it is possible to decipher the signal thus received and find out where the material is in the interior of Mars. This is how we explore the earth. In this way, at the beginning of the year, scientists determined that Mars has a larger, lower-density liquid nucleus than expected.
The recent shocks, of course, bring something new.
Primarily because almost every major push recorded by InSight so far came from a closer distance from it, from a region 1,600 miles away called Cerebrus-Fosae. There are several cracks formed by the breakage of the crust by the debris. Evidence indicates that this region has been tectonically and volcanically active in the relatively recent past, over the last 10 million years.
The September quake is still being studied by scientists to pinpoint the epicenter of two larger quakes in August. According to them, this is another region with traces of past volcanic activity: Marinieri Valley – a massive canyon system with a length of 4000 kilometers. The center of this system is located 9700 kilometers from InSight.
The August tremors also had a different seismic profile. The 4.2-magnitude shock was slow and low-frequency, while the 4.1-magnitude was faster and higher. In addition, it was even newer to Maval, at 925 km.
Different seismic profiles can mean different processes taking place in the Martian entrails and therefore help us to create a more detailed reconstruction of the Martian entrails densities.
The InSight spacecraft has no real life on Mars. There were times and a problem with his drilling tool that had to study the flow of heat flows. At the beginning of the year, it was declared out of order. Although the mission was extended for another two years, the spacecraft still has some problems – when its solar panels are covered in dust, it encounters an energy shortage.
In May 2021, scientists solved this problem conveniently: On a windy day, InSight applied in such a way that the wind blew sand from the solar panels. After repeating this maneuver several times, the ship’s power supply was significantly improved.