NASA’s InSight Mars lander has detected the strongest earthquake ever seen on another planet: a magnitude 5 quake that occurred on May 4, 2022.
This adds to the list of more than 1,313 earthquakes identified by InSight since its landing on Mars in November 2018. The previous strongest earthquake recorded had an estimated magnitude of 4.2 and occurred on August 25, 2021.
A magnitude 5 earthquake is moderate compared to those felt on Earth, but it is near the upper limit of what scientists planned to observe during the InSight mission on Mars. Before the science team can share more information on this new quake, including its location, the nature of its source, and what it may reveal about the interior of Mars, they must do further research.
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Felt that one‼️
After more than three years of listening to the soft rumbles of Mars, I just felt by far my biggest “marsquake” yet: looks like about magnitude 5. My team is studying the data to learn more. Science rewards patience!
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) May 9, 2022
It is unknown what triggered the marsquake or where it originated on the red planet, but it is already of great interest to scientists. It adds to the more than 1,300 earthquakes identified by Insight since its arrival in November 2018. That, in turn, should inform understanding of how Mars (and other similar planets, such as Earth) formed in the first place.
“Since we set our seismometer down in December 2018, we’ve been waiting for ‘the big one’,” says planetary geophysicist Bruce Banerdt from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, and the leader of the InSight mission.
As marsquakes are often less intense than earthquakes, they are more challenging to detect, and other vibrations, like those caused by the wind, might interfere with measurements. Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure is a highly sensitive seismometer installed on InSight.
Seismic waves may potentially be generated by volcanic activity on Mars, and specialists continue to uncover new patterns in the data that Insight and its seismometer have previously transmitted to Earth.