Jul 19, 2019 | Updated: 08:51 AM EDT

InSight Detects Microseisms While Waiting for Marsquakes

Mar 19, 2019 09:22 AM EDT

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 artist rendering of the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure instrument (cutaway)
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech/CNES/IPGP)

When the ocean moves to make storms and tides, there is a microseismic activity happening on Earth that is detected by equipment designed for that purpose. Quakes on the Moon and Venus have not been detected yet although there are documented evidence supporting the theory. Much like these heavenly bodies, there are also theories suggesting that Mars has mini tremors as well. However, there are only very little known facts about it. 

One theory is that the magnetic striping stretching over the southern part of Mars could be similar to the magnetic striping happening on Earth where a particularly thin crust is splitting and forming new land. 

On November 26, 2018, the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission launched by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was scheduled to land on Mars. Several months after the InSight lander of NASA was deployed and delicately piloted to location, the lander has successfully positioned its hypersensitive seismometer on the Martian surface inside the crater "Homestead Hollow". InSight was designed to detect the "marsquakes" that seem to happen much like booming thunder. This will aid in solving mysteries about the Red Planet's interior.

A few weeks since the lander started to run, its seismometer has already detected minute long tremors. University of Paris Diderot planetary seismologist Philippe Lognonné believe that the signals are coming from Earth's red neighbor.

As soon as the InSight lander placed a protective shield over its seismometer, the microseisms were detected.  This marks the first microseisms that were detected on another planet.
Since Mars has no oceans at present to cause the microseisms, Lognonné believes that these microtremors were caused by Rayleigh waves when low-frequency pressure waves from atmospheric winds move over the surface. 

Earth has a fragmented shell and movement of tectonic plates are pinpointed to cause earthquakes. The Red Planet, however, does not have a fragmented shell. Theories suggest that seismic activity can also happen when a part of the shell is shrunken even at the slightest because of planetary cooling. 

Lognonné pointed out that there have not been any marsquakes detected by InSight but the microseisms prove that the seismometer on the lander works as designed. As the earthquakes are formed differently from marsquakes, these differences could help scientist have a better understanding of the early Earth.

Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, explained how seismic waves can pick up certain information as it travels along the surface. Banerdt is hopeful that from the information collected by InSight, a 3D view of Mars could be put together in the long run.

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