NASA lander detects mysterious ‘Marsquake’ rumblings coming from inside planet

NASA scientists have discovered mysterious rumblings coming from inside Mars.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's InSight lander has detected two strong, clear quakes originating in a location of Mars called Cerberus Fossae – the same place where two strong quakes were detected earlier in the lander's mission.

The first "quiet but distinct" signal of a 'Marsquake' was detected on April 6, 2019.

These new quakes have magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1 compared to the previous quakes which were magnitude 3.6 and 3.5.

Studying marsquakes is one way the InSight science team seeks to develop a better understanding of Mars’ mantle and core.

It is not believed that Mars has tectonic plates like Earth, but it does have volcanically active regions that can cause rumbles.

The March 7 and March 18 quakes add weight to scientific theories that Cerberus Fossae is a center of seismic activity on the red planet.

"Over the course of the mission, we’ve seen two different types of marsquakes: one that is more 'Moon-like' and the other, more 'Earth-like'," said Taichi Kawamura of France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, which helped provide InSight’s seismometer and distributes its data along with the Swiss research university ETH Zurich.

"Earthquake waves travel more directly through the planet, while those of moonquakes tend to be very scattered; marsquakes fall somewhere in between.

"Interestingly, all four of these larger quakes, which come from Cerberus Fossae, are 'Earth-like'."

Curiously, the previous seismic events detected by the space agency's InSight lander – which arrived on the planet's surface in December 2018 – occurred almost a full Martian year ago, or two Earth years, during the Martian northern summer.

Scientists had predicted this would again be an ideal time to listen for quakes because winds would become calmer.

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The seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), is sensitive enough that, even while it is covered by a dome-shaped shield to block it from wind and keep it from getting too cold, wind still causes enough vibration to obscure some marsquakes.

During the past northern winter season, InSight couldn’t detect any quakes at all.

"It’s wonderful to once again observe marsquakes after a long period of recording wind noise," said John Clinton, a seismologist who leads InSight’s Marsquake Service at ETH Zurich.

"One Martian year on, we are now much faster at characterizing seismic activity on the Red Planet."

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