Mysterious rumblings known as ‘Marsquakes’ have been detected by Nasa’s InSight lander and provide further clues to volcanic activity beneath the Red Planet’s surface.
The vibrations originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae – an area where NASA scientists have picked up significant seismic activity and even landslides in the past.
They believe the vibrations were likely caused by a sudden release of energy beneath the planet’s surface, bSince Mars has no tectonic plates like Earth, the exact cause and origin of the rumble remains unknown.
The earthquakes were captured by InSight’s seismometer, an onboard device built specifically to record Marsquakes.
Using its robotic arm, InSight partially buried the seismometer to protect it from strong seasonal winds and allow for more accurate measurements.
NASA’s InSight has detected two large earthquakes on Mars in a region called Cerberus Fossae, which supports the idea that this location is seismically active
An artistic rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. It supports several other missions orbiting the Red Planet
THREE MISSIONS TO MARS IN 2021: US, UAE AND CHINA ON OR ON THE RED PLANET
So far, 2021 has been the ‘year of Mars’ with three spaceships from Earth arriving on the red planet.
Earth’s first visitor to arrive was also a first for the Arab world – the United Arab Emirates’ Hope probe.
This spaceship will track the weather on Mars for an entire year.
The second ship was from China – Tianwen-1 will orbit Mars until May, when it will deploy a rover.
This makes China only the second country after the US to land a rover on Mars if it succeeds.
NASA’s Persistence was the last of three to orbit Mars, but the first to land on the Red Planet.
The area where the earthquakes were detected – Cerberus Fossae – is a steep-walled area carved into volcanic plains where active landslides were photographed in 2019.
Intriguingly, the earthquakes occurred almost exactly one Mars year – or two Earth years – after two previous earthquakes had been detected in the same area.
InSight has recorded more than 500 earthquakes so far, but because of their clear signals, these four were the best earthquake data to examine the planet’s interior, Nasa said in a statement announcing the earthquakes.
Taichi Kawamura of France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, which provides support for the NASA mission, said the earthquakes contributed to scientists’ understanding of volcanic activity on the planet.
Over the course of the mission, we’ve seen two different types of Mars quakes: one that’s more ‘moon-like’ and the other, more ‘Earth-like,’ he said.
Earthquake waves travel more directly across the planet, while those from moonquakes are usually very scattered, Kawamura said.
Marsquakes fall somewhere in between.
Interestingly, all four of these larger earthquakes, which originate from Cerberus Fossae, are “ earthy. ”
Launched in May 2018 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, InSight landed on Mars in November of that year with the mission to give the planet its first in-depth control since it was formed 4.5 billion years ago.
It works in tandem with several missions orbiting Mars and roaming the planet’s surface, including the Curiosity rover.
InSight’s ability to adapt to the incredibly harsh conditions on the planet has helped us obtain more accurate data.
It regularly faces extreme temperature swings – from minus 148 Fahrenheit during the night to 32 Fahrenheit – and fierce seasonal winds.
It is hoped that summer on Mars will bring calmer weather, making it easier to track down other earthquakes.
To capture more accurate data, the InSight lander has started using a shovel on its robotic arm to place Earth over the cable connecting its seismometer – called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) – to the spacecraft.
“This allows the ground to get as close to the shield as possible without interfering with the shield’s seal with the ground.”
Scientists hope that isolating the wind will make it easier to detect Marsquakes.
The new quakes were slightly smaller than two previous magnitude 3.6 and 3.5 earthquakes 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 data to examine the planet’s interior.
Since its arrival in November 2018, the InSight lander has operated on a variety of missions orbiting Mars and roaming the surface of the planet, including the Curiosity rover
In 2019, NASA collected evidence of active landslides near Cerberus Fossae, a series of troughs carved into volcanic plains on Mars.
The Curiosity rover also took some panoramas with its Mastcam camera
Earlier this week, NASAThe Curiosity Mars rover captured a photo of itself taking a selfie with the 6 meter high rock formation ‘Mont Mercou’.
The selfie shows the rover next to a rock formation called ‘Mont Mercou’, a nickname coming from a mountain in France.
And while the photo is impressive in itself, it was actually taken to celebrate Curiosity’s 30th monster to date, after the rover drilled a hole in a nearby rock monster nicknamed ‘Nontron’.
Curiosity also made a few panoramas with the Mastcam on March 4.
NASA explained: ‘By photographing one panorama from about 40 meters from the outcrop, then rolling it to the side and photographing another from the same distance, the rover created a stereoscopic effect similar to that used by 3D viewfinders.
‘By studying the outcrop from more than one angle, 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 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 main mission is to unravel the mystery as to whether Mars ever had the right conditions to support life.
NASA added: “Early on in its mission, Curiosity’s scientific instruments found chemical and mineral evidence of past habitable environments on Mars.
“It continues to explore rock from a time when Mars could have been home to microbial life.”