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Nasa’s InSight lander records two strong quakes on Mars, over 500 so far. All you need to know

Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that the quakes further supported the idea that Cerberus Fossae is seismically active.
The mission team has started trying to partially insulate the cable from extreme temperature variations.(Twitter / @NASAInSight)
Published on Apr 02, 2021 09:27 PM IST
By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Nasa’s InSight lander detected two strong, clear quakes on Mars last month, recording over 500 quakes to date since its touch down on the Red Planet in November 2018. According to the mission control, the two quakes of magnitude 3.3 and 3.1 originated in a region called Cerberus Fossae, the same place where two other strong quakes were recorded earlier in the mission. The previous strong marsquakes were of magnitude 3.6 and 3.5.

Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that the quakes further supported the idea that Cerberus Fossae is seismically active. “InSight has recorded over 500 quakes to date, but because of their clear signals, these are four of the best quake records for probing the interior of the planet,” Nasa JPL said in a statement.

InSight science team seeks to develop a better understanding of Mars’ mantle and core by studying the quakes. Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth but it does have volcanically active regions that can shake the surface, as per the US space agency.

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Taichi Kawamura of France’s Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, which helped provide InSight’s seismometer, said in a statement that the mission has observed two different types of marsquakes. According to Kawamura, one type of marsquake was more “Moon-like”, which tends to be very scattered, while the other type was more “Earth-like”, where waves travel more directly through the planet.

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“Interestingly, all four of these larger quakes, which come from Cerberus Fossae, are ‘Earth-like,’” Kawamura added, according to the Nasa JPL website.

The mission noted another common feature between the latest marsquakes and the previous top seismic events which occurred almost a full Martian year ago - all of them occurred in the Martian northern summer. Scientists had predicted that Martian northern summer, when winds would become calmer, would be an ideal time to listen for quakes as the wind causes enough vibration to obscure some marsquakes.

The mission team has started trying to partially insulate the cable, that connects the seismometer to the lander, from extreme temperature variations. The scoop on the end of InSight’s robotic arm is being used to drop soil on top of the domed Wind and Thermal Shield which subsequently trickle down onto the cable.

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