Mars has been mankind’s wonderland since the very advent of a scientific revolution. With the advancement in technology, we have been able to delayer the mysteries posed by the red planet. Various exploration missions by NASA and other world-class agencies have documented many facts and events occurring on the planet. Highly advanced rovers like Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity have roamed miles on the Martian terrains and have telecasted a spectrum of data revealing the topography, weather, atmospheric configuration, etc.
All this data has led us to a more evident knowledge of the red planet. The frequent events recorded on the planet cast a pattern and help us develop a sound understanding of Martian nature. Earth-dwellers are fascinated by the composition & nature of Mars and the possibility of the existence of life for Mars’ surprising similarity with the earth. One such event is the Martian ‘Earthquakes’, better termed as ‘Marsquakes.’
Tremors have earlier been detected on Moons and even Venus, but on Mars, despite being somewhat similar to Earth in lithospheric composition, they are seldom to be felt. Marsquakes occur once in a million years or so. Mars, we can say, has a reputation of being seismically inactive. The real estate builders may find this as an excellent future possibility on Mars! But, to their hard luck, recent seismic activity has been detected on Mars by NASA’s InSight lander on 6 April 2019. According to NASA, the lander’s seismometer detected three distinct kinds of sounds.
While three more shocks were recorded on 14 March, 10 April, and 11 April, respectively but the signals were weaker and more ambiguous in origin, making it difficult to determine their cause. This historical event follows a long-time attempt to detect any seismic movement on the planet since 1975, Viking Mission. Below is the recorded audio of the marsquakes ( Source NASA).
InSight’s seismometer, SEIS, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, is around a dome-shaped instrument that stands on the planet’s surface and records the “pulse” or seismic vibrations inside. This is much like a Doctor’s stethoscope used to measure heartbeats. The device craves any pulse, or wave or even meteorite thumps with substantial sensitivity and can detect surface movements even smaller than a Hydrogen atom. It houses several sensors inside a 3 Liter volume vacuum chamber that runs on up to 8.5 W power and returns 38 Megabits of data every day.
The SEIS depends on the waves that can travel to long distances inside the planet and even get altered due to various materials on the way. This helps me understand the detail of the internal structure of mars. Scientists believe that the area up to 1000-2000 Km around the SEIS experienced quakes 1-10 million years ago. That’s recent for a planet. Mars has several evidence that mark various gigantic movements caused by volcanic eruptions like Olympus Mons (the highest volcanic peak in the solar system) or Elysium Mons and tectonic cracks like the iconic 4,000 km (2,500 mi) long canyon system, Valles Marineris, which was supposed to be the remnant of an ancient strike-slip fault of the planet.
That historical discovery brought relief to the scientific community, has been working on this project for a decade. Upon finding, scientists at NASA have expressed their excitement, saying, “InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” as told by the InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!” he added. We believe science has all the answers to our questions. All it requires is a quest from us. We do worship Earth as our mother, but deep inside, we still are obsessed with Mars. Aren’t we?
Sandeep Poddar is the convener of Ignited Minds Science Club affiliated with VIGYAN PRASAR. He is a Science Communicator and develops and presents scientific content for Yuvaaz Podcast.
He can catch at; http://www.ignitedminds777.wordpress.com/