NASA's InSight Lander Detects Largest Quake Ever Recorded On Mars And It's A Doozy

mars insight lander
NASA's Mars InSight Lander measured the largest Marsquake yet, with a magnitude of nearly 5 and lasting for almost ten hours. All six of the largest measurements recorded have occurred since the middle of 2021.

On the night of May 4, the Mars InSight Lander seismometer detected a quake on Mars which was at least 5 times as large as the next largest quake recorded on the planet, according to new research published in Geophysical Research Letters. The May quake had a magnitude of 4.7, while the previous record holder was a magnitude of 4.2 in August 2021.

"This was definitely the biggest Marsquake that we have seen," remarked Taichi Kawamura, lead author and planetary scientist at the Institut de physique du globe de Paris, France.

Scientists have been using the seismology on the Red Planet to gain a better idea about what lies under the planet's surface, including water, and how the planet's crust and deep interior are structured. Much like Earth, most Marsquakes are thought to be caused by fault movements.

"The energy released by this single Marsquake is equivalent to the cumulative energy from all other Marsquakes we've seen so far, and although the event was over 2000 kilometers (1200 miles) distant, the waves recorded at InSight were so large they almost saturated our seismometer," explained John Clinton.

The 4.7 Marsquake created reverberations that lasted for almost ten hours, which is quite a long time in comparison to all the other quakes which lasted less than an hour each. "For the first time we were able to identify surface waves, moving along the crust and upper mantle, that have traveled around the planet multiple times," explained Clinton.

The Marsquake in May was rare, in that it exhibited characteristics of both high- and low-frequency quakes. Typically they are divided into two different types, those with high-frequency waves characterized by rapid but shorter vibrations, and those of low-frequency, when the surface moves slowly but with larger amplitude. Researchers believe that it might be possible that previously recorded low- and high-frequency quakes are simply two aspects of the same thing, according to Kawamura.

Kawamura concluded the press release by stating, "Stay tuned for more exciting stuff following this."