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Astronomy | NASA InSight lander has felt a Martian earthquake



NASA’s Mars InSight lander has just discovered two relatively large earthquakes on the red planet. They come from a very interesting area that is considered to be structurally active. This highlights one of our bigger questions about Mars: Is Mars active today? like, right now?

InSight landed on a volcanic plain called Elysium Planitia on November 26, 2018. Its main task is to study the interior of Mars using seismographs, thermal probes and radio signals to determine the structure of the planet. It also has a weather station to measure temperature, wind and pressure (you can also get daily reports).

Unfortunately, the thermal probe never really had a chance to work. It was designed to dig it to about 5 meters above the ground, but despite some heroic efforts, it did not go too far, and this part of the mission was over.

However, the earthquake package works well, and more than 500 earthquakes have been detected.When something shakes, rattles, and rolls on Mars, it produces sound waves called Seismic wave Go through the inside of the planet. Different types of waves move in different ways, which helps scientists understand the interior of Mars. Most of the waves detected by InSight are shallow high-frequency waves, which are caused by an event in the Martian crust, but dozens of them are lower-frequency waves that can propagate through the Martian mantle (with the Earth’s mantle). Same, is sturdy, but cannot spread). Because the temperature is high, and may not move like us).

In the first year of Mars (the Earth is 2 years long), it detected two earthquakes of 3.5 and 3.6. Then, for a while, InSight did not detect many big things. This may be because during the Martian winter, the air is too unstable and wind noise masks seismic activity. The SEIS (Seismic Detector) is located under the small dome deployed by InSight to protect it from wind, but this can only go very far.

Now, with the Martian spring in the northern hemisphere, the atmosphere has calmed down. In March, SEIS detected two other relatively large earthquakes with magnitudes of 3.1

and 3.3. When I lived in California, I had experienced several earthquakes. Although it felt insufficient to cause any damage, it was definitely large enough.

All these earthquakes came from the direction of Cerberus Fossae, a series of troughs and cracks in the Martian crust about 1,600 kilometers east of InSight.This area is very much Liang: A long time ago, when the huge Tasis volcano was formed, a crack was formed and a huge bulge was formed in the crust. This extension of the earth’s crust causes surface plants to burst at Cerberus Fossae, like a balloon covered with dry soil, if you inflate it, it will burst and separate.

What makes this area so interesting is that the surface around it is still very young, I mean young: the crater count indicates that it is less than 10 million years old, and some areas may be close to 2 million years old. At that time, a large amount of liquid was ejected from the ground-although it may be lava, but it may be water-and the whole area was cultivated.

Millions of years are only a fraction of Mars’s 4.5 billion years of age, so this means that the planet has only recently started volcanic activity. Are you still there today? We would love to know the answer to this question, so InSight may be helpful.These big earthquakes show something It’s over there.

InSight recently extended the mission period by at least December 2022, which is good news. Of course, scientists hope to find more earthquakes over time, and they also want to reduce the noise of SEIS so that they can detect weaker earthquakes (during a brief solar eclipse caused by hail, it even becomes cooler when the ground cools. You can feel the ground changes). Mars Moon Phobos! ). In the recording where seismic waves are converted into sound, you can hear some short and sharp crackling sounds (collectively, Dinks with donkey).You can find one near the beginning of this recording of Sol 173*:

At first it was not clear what they were, but now engineers believe that they are caused by thermal movement in the cable connecting the SEIS to the lander, which expands and contracts when the temperature fluctuates greatly. They plan to use a shovel to dig out some surface on the lander and then drop it on the cable to insulate it a bit. Hope this will mask some noise and improve the quality of detection. You can see their efforts in this short video, which consists of a series of images taken by the camera on the lander:

Sitting quietly on the planet and moving very carefully, you can learn amazing information about the planet. We are looking for the structure under the crust of Mars, which is cool, but I especially want to know if Mars is still volcanic. Until recently, no one knew if there was any activity on Mars, and for most of my life, Mars was considered a dead world.Now, although it may just be most Dead, there is still a little kick left.


*Mars rotates every 24 hours and 37 minutes, so this is the time of day.To avoid confusion with Earth Day, we call these sols Numbering from the time when the given task starts at 0, So in this case, Sol 173 is the 174th Martian day after InSight landed.


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