NASA’s InSight lander uncovers tectonic origins of major marsquake

by Shura Guseva

On May 4, 2022, a groundbreaking discovery was made when NASA’s InSight lander recorded the most potent marsquake to date. While the 4.7 magnitude quake might seem moderate by Earth’s standards, it is a significant event for Mars.

NASA's InSight lander uncovers tectonic origins of major marsquake

Planetary scientist Ben Fernando from the University of Oxford in England stated, “Our analysis shows that this marsquake was tectonic in nature, not caused by an impact. The implication here is that Mars’s fault lines are capable of producing substantial marsquakes.” This revelation was shared by Reuters.

Constantinos Charalambous, a planetary scientist at Imperial College London and co-chair of InSight’s Geology Working Group, commented, “This discovery advances our comprehension of Martian seismic activities. It pushes us nearer to decoding the tectonic processes of the Red Planet.”

Throughout its mission, InSight’s seismometer has identified a total of 1,319 marsquakes. The epicenter of this significant 4.7 magnitude quake was pinpointed to the Al-Qahira Vallis region in Mars’s southern hemisphere, approximately 1,200 miles southeast of where InSight is stationed.

Initially, the seismic patterns of this quake were found to be similar to those of two meteorite impacts that InSight had previously observed, which resulted in craters around 500 feet wide. To confirm the cause, researchers collaborated with multiple space agencies globally, including those from Europe, the U.S., China, India, and the UAE, to search for any evidence of an impact on the Martian surface on the quake’s day.

Concluding the findings, Charalambous remarked, “Every seismic event that InSight detects adds to our understanding of Mars. This specific marsquake not only unveils layers of Mars’s geological past but also provides critical information about its seismic activities. Such insights are crucial when planning potential future human missions to Mars.”

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