Space & Astronomy
'Marsquake' confirmed to be strongest tremor ever detected beyond the Earth
By T.K. Randall
October 17, 2023 · 0 comments
A final view of the surface of Mars as seen by the InSight lander. Image Credit: Twitter / NASA InSight
A 'monster' quake picked up on Mars suggests that the Red Planet is far from seismically inactive.
While the surface of Mars is today little more than a cold, barren wasteland, deep beneath the planet's crust there is still a considerable amount of heat left over from its formation billions of years ago.
As that heat dissipates, the crust of Mars warps and contracts, producing 'marsquakes' that can be picked up with the right instruments such as the seismometer that was deployed by NASA's InSight lander before it eventually ran out of power at the end of last year.
A few months before it died, however, it picked up what is effectively the most significant seismic event ever detected on another world - a 4.7-magnitude tremor dubbed S1222a.
This event was so large, in fact, that it exceeded all of the 1,300+ other tremors detected by the spacecraft put together - leading scientists to suspect that it may have been produced by a meteor impact on the surface rather than seismic activity below it.
Now, though, the results of further investigation have ruled out this possibility, meaning that what the spacecraft picked up was indeed a seismic event unlike any detected off-world before.
It wasn't particularly unexpected, either, as scientists had previously predicted that quakes up to a magnitude of 5 might be picked up by InSight during its mission.
"This is a nice confirmation that the estimates weren't wildly wrong," said Benjamin Fernando of the University of Oxford who lead the research.
"Mars really does support these pretty hefty marsquakes. 4.7 on Earth wouldn't bring your house down, but you'd certainly notice it."
Source: Scientific American
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