The Sydney Morning Herald reports that NASA’s robotic probe InSight has detected and measured what scientists believe was a “marsquake”, marking the first time a likely seismological tremor has been recorded on another planet.
The breakthrough, reported on Tuesday, came nearly five months after InSight, the first spacecraft designed specifically to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down on the surface of Mars to begin its two-year seismological mission.
The faint rumble characterised by Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists as a likely marsquake was roughly equal to a 2.5 magnitude earthquake.
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It was recorded on April 6, InSight’s 128th Martian day, or sol, by its French-built seismometer, an instrument sensitive enough to measure a seismic wave just one-half the radius of a hydrogen atom.
“We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology,” InSight principal investigator Bruce Banerdt said in a news release.
Scientists are still examining the data to determine the precise cause of the signal, but the trembling appeared to have originated from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind.
“The high frequency level and broad band is very similar to what we get from a rupture process. So we are very confident that this is a marsquake,” Philippe Lognonne, a geophysics and planetary science professor at University Paris Diderot in France and lead researcher for InSight’s seismometer, said.
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