APR 24, 2019 07:13 AM PDT

NASA's InSight Lander Detects First 'Likely' Marsquake

Many different NASA-made landers, orbiters, and rovers have been sent to Mars over the years to study our red planetary neighbor, but perhaps one of the most exciting missions to be deployed in recent memory is the InSight lander, which teases to reveal Mars’ most profound secrets with the help of specialized instruments.

This is InSight's SEIS instrument.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s InSight lander officially touched down on the Martian surface in November following a six-month journey through space, and it has already deployed most of its science instruments to accumulate data for planetary scientists. Among those was InSight’s SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) instrument, which was designed to detect marsquakes.

Mission scientists weren’t entirely sure that SEIS would even detect anything, but their suspicions were purportedly validated on April 6th when the instrument identified an unusual blip in its data stream. Those same scientists now say that this is likely the first-ever detection of a marsquake and that it’s unlikely to be interference from anything on the Martian surface.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said Bruce Banerdt, the InSight mission’s principal investigator. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”

Related: The InSight lander's heat probe halts digging amid an unexpected obstacle

Banerdt connects this discovery with the historic Moon-centric Apollo missions because part of those initiatives involved attempting to detect seismic activity on another world besides our own. NASA successfully distinguished moonquakes during the Apollo era, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the newfangled marsquake data resembles the moonquake data in terms of size and duration, among other things.

NASA published the following sound bite on YouTube, annotating the difference between Martian wind, the likely marsquake, and the InSight lander’s robotic arm:

NASA went on to explain that InSight’s SEIS instrument detected the likely marsquake 128 days after the lander touched down on the Martian surface (Sol 128). Moreover, SEIS allegedly detected three other signal disturbances on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133) respectively, but these weren’t as discernible as the one detected on Sol 128.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” added Philippe Lognonné, the lead scientist behind the SEIS instrument. “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.”

Related: Mars' environment is more hostile than initially thought

Mars doesn’t exhibit shifting tectonic plates as the Earth does, and so scientists think the red planet’s quakes are caused by something entirely different. Planetary scientists are still trying to determine their source, as it could tell us more about how the planet formed. Fortunately, InSight comes equipped with all the instruments needed to study that department.

It should be interesting to see if InSight continues to capture larger marsquake signals, and more importantly, what NASA will learn from them.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
FEB 10, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 10, 2019
New Horizons Reveals That Ultima Thule is Flatter Than Anticipated
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made the history books yet again on New Year’s Day when it flew past a dark, icy body located in the Kuiper Belt...
FEB 27, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 27, 2019
Is Lunar Exploration Making a Comeback?
NASA astronauts first visited the Moon in the 1960s during the American space agency’s Apollo program, but fast-forward to modern times, and it almos...
APR 03, 2019
Space & Astronomy
APR 03, 2019
NASA Describes the Foundation of its OCO-3 Mission
    NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) mission is now ready to be sent to the International Space Station, where it will be deplo...
APR 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
APR 08, 2019
This Former NASA Astronaut Also Climbed to the Top of Mount Everest
All of NASA’s astronauts are incredible people, capable of performing elite-level tasks in challenging environments such as what one might experience...
APR 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
APR 15, 2019
Israel's Attempt to Land its Beresheet Spacecraft on the Moon Ends in a Crash
During SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 rocket launch of 2019, which transpired back in February, the commercial space company assisted Israel in ferrying Sp...
MAY 05, 2019
Space & Astronomy
MAY 05, 2019
Delayed SpaceX Resupply Mission Launches As ISS Regains Full Power
It’s never a dull moment on the International Space Station, especially given just how quickly things can seem to go wrong when one of the Earth-orbi...
Loading Comments...