Feb 25, 2020 - Science

Mars quakes more often than scientists expected

Tectonic activity on the surface of Mars

Tectonic activity on the surface of Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

Mars shakes with quakes more often than scientists initially expected, according to a new series of studies using data from NASA's InSight lander published this week.

Why it matters: Mars looks like a cold, dead world, but its geology is complicated. The InSight lander, which has been studying the Red Planet from its surface since 2018, is giving scientists a fuller picture of the rusty world.

Details: According to NASA, InSight has recorded more than 450 signals from seismic activity so far, with the largest quake measuring in at about 4.0 magnitude.

  • At the end of 2019, InSight was, on average, measuring seismic signals twice per day, according to the agency.
  • The new research shows two relatively strong marsquakes were tracked to the Cerberus Fossae region, where scientists found volcanic activity that may have been responsible for the shakes.
"If you just take a simple model of Mars, you wouldn't expect it to be hot enough inside to be producing magma. So, what it says is that there's probably some variability at depth that the source of which is not obvious at the surface."
ā€” Suzanne Smrekar, an author of the new study, said during a press conference

Be smart: Mars doesn't have plate tectonics the way Earth does. Instead, these quakes are likely caused by volcanic regions shaking the world or the cooling and contracting of the planet itself.

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