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What is a ‘marsquake’, and what causes it?

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    23rd May, 2022

Context

NASA's InSight lander has recently detected a quake on Mars, the largest ever observed on another planet.

About

About Marsquake:

  • The InSight rover first landed on Mars in November 2018, and has since heard 1,313 quakes.
  • A magnitude 5 quake shook the surface of Mars, the strongest temblor ever detected not only on Mars but on any planet besides Earth.
  • The marsquake surpassed the previous record-holder, a 4.2-magnitude quake that took place in August 2021.
  • On Earth, quakes are caused by shifts in tectonic plates. Mars, however, does not have tectonic plates, and its crust is a giant plate.
  • Therefore, NASA notes, ‘marsquakes’ are caused due to stresses that cause rock fractures or faults in its crust.

About InSight rover:

  • InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), is a Mars lander which is the first robotic explorer to study the crust, mantle and core of Mars.
  • The InSight rover has two primary science objectives:
  • to understand the formation and evolution of the terrestrial planet by investigating the interior structure and processes of Mars and
  • to determine the present level of tectonic activity and meteorite impact rate on the planet
  • Apart from helping learn how Mars was formed, understanding its patterns will also help prepare for human exploration of the planet.
  • It uses its instruments to dig deep beneath the surface of the red planet and seek the ‘fingerprints’ of the process that formed the planet.
  • To do this, it measures the planet’s “vital signs”: seismology, heat flow and precision tracking.

Do you know?

  • InSight is not looking for life on Mars, but is studying what Mars is made of, how its material is layered, and how much heat seeps out of it.
  • Some missions studying the possibility of life on Mars include UAE’s Hope, China’s Tianwen-1, and NASA’s Perseverance.
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