Feb 25, 2020 - Science

Mars quakes more often than scientists expected

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."
— 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.

Go deeper: Where to hunt for life on Mars

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NASA's next Mars rover is named Perseverance

Artist's illustration of the Perseverance rover on Mars. Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's next Mars rover, expected to launch to the Red Planet in July, is officially named Perseverance.

The big picture: Once on Mars, the mission is designed to search out possible signs of past life on the planet and cache samples for a future mission to return back to Earth one day.

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Curiosity rover captures a Martian panorama

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The hiking on Mars must be pretty sweet. A new panoramic image taken by NASA's Curiosity shows the mountains of the Red Planet in all their glory.

Why it matters: The 1.8-billion-pixel panorama is the highest-resolution photo of its kind taken by Curiosity so far.

Go deeperArrowMar 10, 2020 - Science

The Earth's gentle start

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The early Earth and other rocky planets may have formed quickly and gently, not violently through collapse and collision, as previously thought.

Why it matters: The details of Earth's formation are a long-standing mystery tied to how life may have arisen.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - Science