NASA Shocked To Discover Cause Of Largest Mars Quake Ever Detected On The Red Planet

hero mars image
Scientists were surprised to discover the actual cause of the largest quake ever detected on Mars was not a meteoroid impact. Labled as "Marsquake S1222a," it was detected on May 4, 2022, and resembled two prior seismic events that were caused by meteoroids smashing onto the surface of the Red Planet.

The marsquake in question had a magnitude of 4.7. While mild for Earth, it is considered to be quite strong for Mars. The cause of the two prior marsquakes left indelible imprints on the surface of the Red Planet in the form of meteorite impact craters. However, when scientists began looking for a new impact crater that would coincide with the latest seismic event, they were not able to find one.

seismograms from tectonic events
Seismograms from the S1222a event and the two confirmed impact-generated events.

"We concluded that the largest marsquake seen by InSight was tectonic, not an impact. This is important as it shows the faults on Mars can host hefty marsquakes," explained Ben Fernando of the University of Oxford in England and lead author of a research published this week. "We really thought that this event might be an impact."

Fernando added that there are faults that are active on Mars, but no active plate tectonic processes are going on anymore. However, he added that the faults could still trigger quakes.

"This represents a significant step forward in our understanding of Martian seismic activity and takes us one step closer to better understanding the planet's tectonic processes," remarked Constantinos Charalambous, co-chair of InSight's Geology Working Group.

NASA's InSight mission recorded 1,319 marsquakes during its four years of operation. Every seismic event recorded by InSight is considered a "valuable piece of the puzzle." However, this event plays a critical role in understanding the geological history on Mars, while shedding more light on its interior and evolution, according to Charalambous.

As NASA and other space agencies continue to work toward sending humans to inhabit the Red Planet, understanding seismic events like marsquake S1222a is crucial for the safety of those who dare to venture into the beyond.