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NASA’s InSight detects two major earthquakes on Mars



InSight Lander

The artist’s concept shows you the InSight lander, its sensors, cameras and instruments. Image source: NASA / JPL-Caltech

NASA̵

7;s InSight lander found two strong, clear earthquakes, which originated in a place on Mars called Cerberus Fossae, and at that location, two strong earthquakes were seen during the mission earlier. The magnitudes of the new earthquakes are 3.3 and 3.1 respectively. The previous earthquakes were 3.6 and 3.5 magnitudes. InSight has recorded more than 500 earthquakes so far, but due to the clear signal, these are the four best seismic records for exploring the interior of the planet.

Researching earthquakes is a way for the InSight scientific team to seek to deepen their understanding of the mantle and core of Mars. The planet does not have tectonic plates like the Earth, but it does have areas of volcanic activity that may cause rumbles. The earthquakes of March 7 and March 18 deepened the idea that Cerberus Fossae is the center of seismic activity.

Taichi Kawamura of the French Institute of Global Physics said: “During the mission, we have seen two different types of earthquakes: one is more like the’moon’ and the other is more like the’earth’. Paris helped provide InSight’s seismograph and distributed its data together with the Swiss research university Zurich. Seismic waves travel more directly through the earth, while seismic waves tend to be very scattered. Seismic is somewhere in between. Kawamura continued: “The interesting thing is, All four major earthquakes from Cerberus Fossae are’earth-like’. “

The new earthquakes have something in common with InSight’s previous highest seismic events, which occurred almost the entire Martian year (two Earth years) before: they occurred in the northern summer of Mars. Scientists predict that as the wind will become calmer, this will once again be an ideal time to listen to earthquakes. The seismograph called SEIS is sensitive enough that even if it is covered by a dome-shaped protective cover to block the wind and prevent it from overcooling, the wind will still cause enough vibration to obscure some earthquakes. In the past northern winter, InSight could not detect any earthquakes at all.







Seismologist John Clinton said: “After recording the sound of wind for a long time, it’s great to observe earthquakes again.” “One year has passed on Mars, and we are now characterizing seismic activity on the Red Planet. Much faster.”

Better detection

The wind may have calmed down, but scientists still hope to further improve its “listening” capabilities. The temperature near the InSight lander may swing from nearly 148 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 100 degrees Celsius) at night to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) during the day. These extreme temperature changes can cause the cables connecting the seismometer to the lander to expand and contract, resulting in sound bursts and data spikes.

Therefore, the task force has begun to try to partially isolate the cable from the weather. They first used a spoon at the end of the InSight robotic arm to drip soil onto the wind and heat shield of the dome, and then drip it onto the cable. In this way, the soil can be as close as possible to the shielding layer without disturbing the sealing of the shielding layer and the ground. Burying the seismic zone is actually one of the goals of the next phase of the mission. NASA recently extended the mission by two years to December 2022.

Despite the strong wind blowing the seismograph, InSight’s solar panels are still covered in dust, and the power is decreasing as Mars moves away from the sun. After July, when the planets begin to approach the sun again, energy levels are expected to increase. Prior to this, the mission will first shut down the lander’s instruments so that InSight can sleep and wake up periodically to check its operation and communicate with the earth. The team hopes to turn on the seismograph for another month or two before it must be temporarily shut down.


Data from Insight reveals the size of the Martian core


Citation: NASA’s InSight retrieved two Mars earthquakes on April 1, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-nasa-insight-sizable-quakes-mars.html (April 2021 1 day).

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