NASA announced that its InSight probe detected a pair of strong, clear earthquakes on the surface of Mars, located in the area known as Cerberus Fossae. Two strong earthquakes have also been recorded previously on the mission in the same area. NASA says the new marsquakes registered recently had magnitudes of 3.3 and 3.1.
The new earthquakes were slightly smaller in magnitude than the two previous ones recorded at the same location, which were of magnitude 3.6 and 3.5. InSight recorded more than 500 tremors during its mission, but these four combined are the best earthquake records ever made to probe the interior of the planet. The InSight science team is studying marsquakes to better understand the mantle and core of the planet.
Geologically, Mars is very different from Earth because Mars has no tectonic plates, although it has volcanically active regions that cause crashes on the planet. The two new earthquakes were recorded on March 7 and 18 and reinforce the idea that Cerberus Fossae is the center of the planet’s seismic activity. So far, scientists studying the mission data have seen two different types of earthquakes on Mars, one more like the Moon and one more like the Earth.
Earthquake waves travel directly across the planet, while lunars tend to be very dispersed. Marsquakes fall somewhere between the other two types of earthquakes. Scientists say that all four major earthquakes recorded on Mars are more similar to Earth. The new earthquakes also occurred during the summer of northern Mars, as well as the two strong earthquakes recorded previously.
The seismograph under its protective dome is so sensitive that the wind sometimes obscures smaller marsquakes. InSight did not detect an earthquake during the northern winter season. Recently, the team that controls InSight used their shell to play solo in the dome wind and thermal shield, allowing it to run down the cable and try to protect it from wind and temperature changes to help improve seismic capability.