NASA says its InSight Mars probe has “measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely ‘marsquake.'” The agency says the “first recorded trembling” appears to have emanated from inside the planet, as opposed to noise signatures from events on the surface.
“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” says InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”
Why is this important? One of the goals of the InSight mission is to help map the Martian interior. By using data from extremely sensitive seismometers, NASA can learn a lot about the makeup of the planet and better understand how it was formed.
This event “is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” says Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters. According to NASA, “most people are familiar with quakes on Earth, which occur on faults created by the motion of tectonic plates. Mars and the Moon do not have tectonic plates, but they still experience quakes—in their cases, caused by a continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress.”