NASA’s InSight lander has detected mysterious rumors known as ‘Marsquakes’, which offer more clues about volcanic activity beneath the surface of the Red Planet.
The tremors originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae, an area where NASA scientists have detected significant seismic activity and even landslides in the past.
They believe that the tremors were likely caused by a sudden release of energy below the planet’s surface, bBut since Mars does not have plate tectonics like Earth, the exact cause and origin of the rumors is unknown.
The earthquakes were detected by InSight’s seismometer, an onboard device specially built to capture Marsquakes.
Using its robotic arm, InSight has partially buried the seismometer to protect it from strong seasonal winds and allow for more accurate readings.
NASA’s InSight has detected two large earthquakes on Mars in a region called Cerberus Fossae, further supporting the idea that this location is seismically active.
An artist’s rendering of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. It is supporting various other missions that orbit the Red Planet.
THREE MISSIONS TO MARS IN 2021: USA, UAE AND CHINA ON OR ABOVE THE RED PLANET
So far 2021 has been the ‘year of Mars’ with three spacecraft from Earth arriving on the Red Planet.
The first visitor from Earth to arrive was also the first to the Arab world: the ‘Hope’ probe from the United Arab Emirates.
This spacecraft is going to monitor the weather on Mars for a full year.
The second ship was from China: Tianwen-1 will orbit Mars until May, when it will deploy a rover.
This will make China the second country after the US to land a rover on Mars if it is successful.
NASA’s Perseverance was the last of the three to reach Martian orbit, but the first to land on the Red Planet.
The area where the earthquakes were detected, Cerberus Fossae, is a steep area cut into volcanic plains where active landslides were photographed in 2019.
Interestingly, the earthquakes occurred almost exactly one Martian year, or two Earth years, after two previous earthquakes were detected in the same area.
InSight has recorded more than 500 earthquakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these four were the best earthquake records to probe the interior of the planet, NASA said in a statement announcing the earthquakes.
Taichi Kawamura of France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, which supports NASA’s mission, said the earthquakes contributed to scientists’ understanding of volcanic activity on the planet.
“Over the course of the mission, we have seen two different types of tidal waves: one that is more” moon-like “and the other more” Earth-like, “he said.
Waves from earthquakes travel more directly across the planet, while waves from lunar earthquakes tend to be widely dispersed, Kawamura said.
Earthquakes are somewhere in the middle.
Interestingly, these four largest earthquakes, which come from Cerberus Fossae, are ‘Earth-like’.
InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in May 2018, landing on Mars in November of that year with a mission to give the planet its first full check-up since it formed 4.5 billion years ago.
It is working in conjunction with several missions that orbit Mars and scour the planet’s surface: including the Curiosity rover.
InSight’s ability to adapt to the planet’s incredibly harsh conditions has given way in an effort to obtain more accurate data.
It regularly faces extreme temperature swings, from minus 148 Fahrenheit overnight to 32 Fahrenheit, and strong seasonal winds.
The Martian summer is expected to bring calmer weather, making it easier to detect other earthquakes.
To record more accurate data, the InSight lander has begun using a shovel on its robotic arm to lay ground on the cable connecting its seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), to the spacecraft.
That allows the ground to get as close to the shield as possible without interfering with the shield’s seal to the ground.
Scientists hope that isolating it from the wind will make it easier to detect earthquakes.
The new earthquakes were slightly smaller than the previous two earthquakes of magnitude 3.6 and 3.5 detected in the same region.
InSight has recorded more than 500 earthquakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best earthquake records for probing the interior of the planet.
Since its arrival in November 2018, the InSight lander has worked with several missions in orbit around Mars and across the planet’s surface – including the Curiosity rover.
In 2019, NASA collected evidence of active landslides in Cerberus Fossae, a set of depressions carved out of volcanic plains on Mars.
The Curiosity rover also took a couple of panoramas with its Mastcam camera.
Earlier this week, NASAThe Curiosity Mars rover snapped a selfie with the 20-foot-tall ‘Mont Mercou’ rock formation.
The selfie shows the rover next to a rock formation nicknamed ‘Mont Mercou’, a nickname taken from a mountain in France.
And while the photo is impressive on its own, it was actually taken to celebrate Curiosity’s 30th sample to date, after the rover drilled a hole in a nearby rock sample dubbed ‘Nontron’.
Curiosity also took a couple of panoramas using its Mastcam on March 4.
NASA explained: “ By panning from about 130 feet (40 meters) away from the outcrop, then rolling to one side and firing another from the same distance, the rover created a stereoscopic effect similar to those seen in 3D viewers.
“Studying the outcrop from more than one angle helps scientists get a better idea of the 3D geometry of the sedimentary layers of Mount Mercou.”
Curiosity is the largest and most capable rover ever sent to Mars, and is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission.
It was launched from Earth on November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars almost a year later, on August 5, 2012.
The rover’s key mission is to unravel the mystery of whether Mars ever had the right conditions to support life.
NASA added: ‘Early in its mission, Curiosity’s science tools found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars.
“It continues to explore the rock record from a time when Mars might have been home to microbial life.”