On May 4, a magnitude 5 earthquake shook the surface of Mars, according to the seismometer placed on the planet by NASA’s InSight lander. The seismic event has been dubbed a “monster” earthquake by the space agency, noting that it is the strongest earthquake ever recorded not only on Mars, but on any planet other than Earth. The Red Planet had previously recorded seismic events of magnitude 4.2 and magnitude 4.1 in August 2021. The space agency found that these earthquakes were five times stronger than the last largest seismic event ever recorded on the planet.
The new “monster” earthquake occurred on the 1,222th sol (Martian day) of the lander’s mission. Since InSight landed Mars planet In 2018, the planet has seen more than 1,313 earthquakes. According to NASAAn earthquake of magnitude 5 is equivalent to a medium-sized earthquake on Earth. However, the magnitude of what the scientist expected to see on the Red Planet during the mission is close to the upper limit.
The earthquake was detected by insight On a “highly sensitive seismometer” that was provided by France’s Center National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), NASA said. Seismometers are intended to study the planet’s deep interior and play an important role in aiding earthquake research. According to the space agency, seismic waves “pass through or are reflected off material in the Martian crust, mantle and core.” In doing so, they alter and modify parameters that can help seismologists study the composition and other characteristics of these layers.
Speaking about the quake, Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, said it was the “big” one the team had been waiting for since they installed their seismometer in December 2018. “This earthquake is sure to provide a view into the planet like no other,” he said. “Scientists will analyze this data to learn new things about Mars for years to come.”
While the earthquake promises possibilities for exciting new scientific discoveries, it also comes at a time when the lander is running into some operational problems. On May 7, InSight saw a drop in available energy below a level, which caused it to slip into a safe mode. This means that the spacecraft suspends all but the most essential functions.
Last month, the seismometer carried by NASA’s InSight lander was detected Two earthquakes of magnitude 4.2 and magnitude 4.1.