The French-made seismometer SEIS, installed on the InSight probe has registered for the first time an earthquake on Mars, reports the National Center for Space Studies of France (CNES, for its acronym in French).
The sound produced by the Marianquake resembles the seismic signals that NASA captured on the surface of the Moon during the Apollo missions, explained researchers.
The Maritan earthquake took place on April 6, the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol, according to an official CNES statement.
So far, researchers do not know the exact cause of the tremor that produced the sound but assume that it was most likely a seismic movement on the red planet.
“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.
In addition to this event, the seismometer recorded three signals that may also have a seismic origin, since at least two should not have been caused by the wind.
NASA explains that three other seismic signals took place on March 14 (Sol 105), April 10 (Sol 132) and April 11 (Sol 133).
Detected by SEIS’ more sensitive Very Broad Band sensors, these signals were even smaller than the Sol 128 event and more ambiguous in origin. The team will continue to study these events to try to determine their cause.
“We are delighted about this first achievement and are eager to make many similar measurements with SEIS in the years to come,” said Charles Yana, SEIS mission operations manager at CNES.
According to the statement, having detected a Maritanquake is an “engineering feat”.
Unlike the seismometers used on Earth, the SEIS instrument could not be buried under the surface of Mars, but the French team was able to create several barriers that eventually managed to isolate the instrument from the influence of winds, dust and temperature changes on that planet.
“We’ve been waiting months for our first marsquake,” said Philippe Lognonné, a Professor at Paris Diderot University and geophysicist at the IPGP Earth physics institute in Paris.
“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 studied it more and modeled our data.”