SALT LAKE CITY — Scientists have recorded what they believe to be the first documented Mars quake.
NASA’s InSight lander reported faint seismic activity on April 6, and NASA released audio to the public for the first time Tuesday.
According to NASA, movement was detected on InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument on the lander’s 128th Martian day.
Scientists believe it’s a Mars quake because the trembling appears to have come from inside the planet rather than from its surface.
“We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!” InSight’s principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said in a statement.
The seismic event was too small to provide good information on Mars’ interior, NASA said, but scientists are studying the movement to determine its exact cause.
According to NASA, Mars’ surface is “extremely quiet,” which is what allows InSight to pick up faint noises. Earth, in contrast, is constantly abuzz with seismic noise and activity.
While earthquakes occur at faults on Earth due to the movement of tectonic plates, Mars experiences quakes without tectonic plates. NASA said this is due to a “continual process of cooling and contraction that creates stress.”
Stress builds over time until it has the strength to push through Mars’ crust, causing a “Marsquake.”Comment on this story
NASA said that discovering the tiny quake required a “huge feat of engineering” due to the planet’s extreme temperature changes and high winds, which make it difficult to operate seismometers.
“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them.”