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Nasa Mars lander picks up what's likely first detected 'Marsquake'

Nasa has said the new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior.

The InSight lander's domed wind and thermal shield
The InSight lander's domed wind and thermal shield
Image: Nasa via PA Images

NASA HAS SAID its InSight lander might have detected the first-known seismic tremor on Mars – or what it has dubbed “Marsquake”. 

The faint seismic signal was detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument on 6 April. 

This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, according to Nasa, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surance, such as wind.

The SEIS instrument measures surface vibrations caused by weather but is also capable of detecting movement from deep within the planet – so called “marsquakes” – or those caused by meteorite impacts. 

The French space agency Cnes, which operates SEIS, said it had detected “a weak but distinct seismic signal” from the probe.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/YouTube

The team hopes to be able to gather information about the activity at the centre of Mars, hopefully providing insight into its formation billions of years ago. 

“It’s great to finally have a sign that there’s still seismic activity on Mars,” said Philippe Lognonne, a researcher at Paris’ Institut de Physique du Globe. 

“We’ve waited for our first Martian quake for months.” 

Nasa has said the new seismic event was too small to provide solid data on the Martian interior, which is one of InSight’s main objectives. 

The Martian surface is extremely quiet, allowing SEIS, InSight’s specially designed seismometer, to pick up faint rumbles.

In contrast, Earth’s surface is quivering constantly from seismic noise created by oceans and weather. An event of this size in Southern California would be lost among dozens of tiny crackles that occur every day.

According to NASA’s Bruce Banerdt, the quake detection “marks the birth of a new discipline: Martian seismology”.

The team said they were still working to confirm the cause of the tremor and ensure it came from the planet’s interior rather than wind or noise distortion. 

It said three other similar but weaker signals of tremors had been picked up by the apparatus. 

Includes reporting by  - © AFP 2019

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