The largest known earthquake on Mars was five times larger than estimated

The tremor registered on Mars on May 4, 2022 even saturated the seismometer of NASA ‘s Insight mission.


The tremor recorded on Mars on May 4, 2022 by NASA’s InSight mission seismometer was at least five times larger than the next largest earthquake recorded on the red planet.

It is the result of new research, now published in Geophysical Research Letters , which is being presented these days at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting in Chicago.

“This was without a doubt the largest Martian earthquake we have ever seen,” Taichi Kawamura, lead author and planetary scientist at the Institut de physique du globe in Paris, France, said in a statement. Kawamura is co-director, along with co-author and seismologist John Clinton from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, of the Marsquake Service (MQS), an international team that monitors and evaluates seismological data recorded by NASA’s InSight Mars Lander probe .

“The energy released by this single Martian quake is equivalent to the cumulative energy of all the other ‘marsquakes’ we’ve seen so far, and even though the event occurred more than 2,000 kilometers away, the ripples recorded in InSight were just as big that nearly saturated our seismometer,” Clinton said.

like on earth

Seismology on Mars can give scientists a better idea of ​​what lies below the planet’s surface – including water – and how its crust and deep interior are structured. As on Earth, most detected ‘marsquakes’ are believed to be due to fault movement.

The previous largest earthquake, recorded in August 2021, was around a magnitude of 4.2, while the May earthquake had a magnitude of 4.7. (The magnitudes are comparable to those of earthquakes.)

“For the first time we have been able to identify surface waves, which travel along the crust and upper mantle, and have circled the planet several times,” Clinton said.

This work is accompanied by two others, also published in Geophysical Research Letters, which cover the trajectories and velocities of the surface waves of the earthquake.

The waves from the record quake lasted about 10 hours, quite a long time considering that no previous ‘marsquake’ exceeded an hour.

It was also curious because the epicenter was near but outside the Cerberus Fossae region , which is the most seismically active region on the Red Planet. The epicenter did not appear to be obviously related to known geological features, although a deep epicenter could be related to hidden features lower down in the crust.

So are the earthquakes of Mars

Earthquakes on Mars are often divided into two different types: high-frequency waves, characterized by rapid but shorter vibrations, and low-frequency ones, when the surface moves slowly but with greater amplitude. This recent quake is rare, as it exhibits characteristics of both high-frequency and low-frequency earthquakes.

According to Kawamura, further research could reveal that previously recorded low-frequency and high-frequency quakes are just two aspects of the same thing.

The new research is the first to describe and analyze data from this large quake, which was published by the Mars Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) data service, NASA ‘s Planetary Data System (PDS) and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), together with the MQS catalogue, in early October.

InSight is believed to be nearing its operational end because dust has progressively covered its solar arrays and reduced power over the four years since its landing in November 2018. “We are impressed that near the end of the extended mission, we’ve had this remarkable event,” Kawamura said. Based on the data collected from this earthquake, “I would say this mission was an extraordinary success,” he continued. ( Europe Press )