Scientists Discover Surprising Cause of Mars’ Record-Breaking Quake
© NASAThis mosaic of Mars is a compilation of images captured by the Viking Orbiter 1. The center of the scene shows the entire Valles Marineris canyon system, more than 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometers) long, 370 miles (600 kilometers) wide and 5 miles (8 kilometers) deep, extending from Noctis Labyrinthus, the arcuate system of graben to the west, to the chaotic terrain to the east.
Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations (InSight) is a NASA mission that was first launched in May of 2018 with the purpose of investigating the interior structure, and composition of Mars.
Scientists have determined that an unusual marsquake that was detected in May 2022 on the red planet appeared to have been the result of movement of massive tectonic forces within Mars' crust.
On May 4 of 2022, NASA’s InSight lander recorded a quake on Mars that registered as a magnitude 4.7, and caused vibrations throughout the red planet that lasted for at least six hours. A global team of scientists believed the quake and aftershock must have been caused by a meteoroid impact, and so they launched a search for what would undoubtedly be a new crater on Mars’ surface.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Benjamin Fernando from the University of Oxford, sought the assistance of the European Space Agency, the Indian Space Research Organization and the United Arab Emirate Space Agency. The occurrence of which may be the first time that all missions have collaborated on one project.
However, after months of searching, the scientists walked away empty handed.
The team ultimately concluded the quake was caused by the tectonic force within Mars’ interior, indicating the red planet is much more seismically active than was previously known.
“We still think that Mars doesn't have any active plate tectonics today, so this event was likely caused by the release of stress within Mars' crust. These stresses are the result of billions of years of evolution; including the cooling and shrinking of different parts of the planet at different rates,” Fernando explains.
“We still do not fully understand why some parts of the planet seem to have higher stresses than others, but results like these help us to investigate further. One day, this information may help us to understand where it would be safe for humans to live on Mars and where you might want to avoid!” he continued.
Dr. Constantinos Charalambous, co-author of the study and of the Imperial College London, remarked that the "absence of a crater in our image search for S1222a marks a significant milestone in interpreting seismic signals on Mars, crucial for distinguishing impact events from tectonic forces on the red planet."
The findings were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.