NASA's InSight lander detects 1st likely marsquake

Enlarge Image This cover is designed to keep InSight's seismometer safe.                  NASA  JPL-Caltech

Enlarge Image This cover is designed to keep InSight's seismometer safe. NASA JPL-Caltech

It sounds like a train rushing by or a plane flying low overhead.

On April 6, NASA's InSight lander sensed its first confirmed marsquake, a phenomenon scientists suspected, but couldn't confirm, occurred on the neighboring planet.

While InSight blasted off in May, it arrived as the Red Planet in late November, and began unpacking its instruments with a seismometer placed on the planet's surface December 19, 2018.

According to a statement from the government space agency, the lander recorded the signal on Martian soil on April 6, InSight's 128th day on Mars.

InSight lander's domed wind and thermal shield which covers a seismometer.

"InSight's first readings carry on the science that began with NASA's Apollo missions", said InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

For many, it's been an agonising wait. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Collaborators in Europe are the first to see the data when it's beamed down from the spacecraft, so Weber knew the news of a quake would come in the middle of the night for USA researchers. "Is today going to be the day?" Scientists recorded the tremors with a French-made dome probe, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). Because the speed and reflection of seismic waves varies based on the presence of different materials beneath the surface, scientists used moonquake data to learn the composition of the Moon's interior and even create computer models of its formation.

A video and audio clip was posted on the NASA website, illustrating the seismic event recorded by InSight's SEIS.

The haunting low rumble was caused by vibrations from Martian wind. "At this point, we haven't ruled any mechanisms", Weber said.

Despite the fact that it's as yet obscure what caused the quake, researchers at NASA and the National Center for Space Studies (CNES) - the French apex space agency - have verified that the tremors are more moon-like in nature than like natural disaster. One of the SEIS team members stated that the news is essential since it proves that Mars has remained seismically active.

By studying Mars at its core, InSight aims to go back in time and shed light on what factors resulted in producing an Earth full of life and a desolate Mars.

Researchers on the project have analysed that the quake is more moon-like in nature than earth-like. Tremors in Mars' interiors were also among the InSight mission's key science goals. This mission will run for two Earth years, which is a little more than one Martian year. She says the size and longer duration of the recent event and the Apollo missions are comparable.

"We've been waiting for this for months".

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