NASA’s InSight Lander Detects Huge Rumble on Mars

NASA’s InSight Lander Detects Huge Rumble on Mars

The magnitude 5 quake is the largest ever detected on another planet.

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Spectrogram of the marsquake detected by NASA's InSight lander.
A spectrogram of the May 4 quake.
Graphic: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich

NASA’s Insight Mars lander recorded a magnitude 5 quake on the Red Planet last week, the largest such rumble ever observed on another world.

The news comes just one week after the lander confirmed the intensities and locations of its previous largest quakes. Those occurred in August and September 2021 and were magnitudes 4.1 and 4.2. They are now usurped by the forceful event on May 4.

Earthquakes between magnitudes 4 and 5 are often felt but typically only cause minor damage, according to Britannica. InSight was sent to Mars in 2018 to study the core, mantle, and crust that make up the Martian interior, as well as the “marsquakes” that emanate from inside the planet.

Since then, InSight has detected over 1,000 quakes, but nothing as intense as the recent event, which was picked up by the lander’s seismometer. Last year, InSight data gave NASA scientists the most sweeping look at the planet’s interior to date.

It may take some time for planetary scientists to deduce more about the origin of the recent quake, as was the case with last year’s sizable events. That’s because when marsquakes occur, they emit seismic waves that reflect off material inside Mars. Those reflections can reveal information about the Martian interior, but they take some time to untangle.

InSight’s tenure on the Red Planet hasn’t been all wins. After several failed attempts to get the “Mole” heat probe to dig into the Martian regolith, NASA finally gave up on the project, which was intended to be a central part of the mission. More recently, the lander’s solar panels have been covered in dust, which has caused concerns about the spacecraft’s ability to stay alive. So far, it’s still kicking, and picking up some tremendous tremors along the way.

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Burying the seismometer

Burying the seismometer

In this gif made of several images taken on March 14, 2021, InSight is seen scooping up Martian dirt and putting it on a cable connecting the seismometer to the lander. NASA scientists hoped that this would help insulate the seismometer’s data from wind and extreme temperature shifts.
Gif: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The view on May 4, 2022

The view on May 4, 2022

Dark view of InSight's seismometer sitting on the Martian surface.
An image taken by InSight on May 4, 2022, the day of the quake. The seismometer—covered in dust—is visible at center.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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A dusty selfie from InSight

A dusty selfie from InSight

Dusty solar panels on InSight.
InSight’s second full selfie, taken in spring 2022 after a Martian dust storm. The dust storm put the lander into a temporary safe mode, but it has since resumed operations.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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A Martian sunrise

A Martian sunrise

InSight's view of the sunrise on Mars.
InSight captured the Martian sunrise on April 10, 2022. This image was taken just after 5:30 a.m. Martian time.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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The Mole’s work site (and grave site)

The Mole’s work site (and grave site)

InSight’s arm tamping down the soil over the Mole, which is buried underground. The Mole ended up stuck in the soil, unable to dig deep enough, and the instrument was abandoned.
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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