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Marsquake detected for first time with InSight probe

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Christian Fernsby |
World   Mars

Four months after landing on Mars, the InSight probe has already transmitted promising signals.

According to researchers at ETH Zurich's Marsquake Service, at least one of the tremors can be interpreted as a quake.

The InSight probe has already transmitted a range of signals from Mars to Earth.

This is good news for ETH Zurich.

The detection of these signals is due, at least in part, to the highly sensitive electronics of the seismometer developed at the university's Aerospace Electronic and Instrument Laboratory.

"The measurements show that our electronics are running smoothly up there," says Domenico Giardini with a smile.

The Professor of Seismology and Geophysics coordinates the activities at ETH for the InSight mission.

Seismic signals recorded on Mars are relatively quiet and and therefore difficult to assess.

Do they come from the wind? Were they a result of meteorite collisions? Or, are they in fact caused by geological processes inside the planet? Researchers at the ETH Marsquake Service have interpreted a seismic event that reached Earth on 6 April 2019 as a possible marsquake.

For the scientists, it comes as a surprise that the measurements indicate that marsquakes are much more like moonquakes than earthquakes.

"So far, we have assumed that the crust of Mars is similar to the Earth's crust," says Stähler.

While the Earth's crust consists of solidified rock, the moon's crust is heavily rugged due to continuous meteorite collisions.

"The fact that the wave form of the marsquakes resembles the moonquakes gives us for the first time a picture of how the Martian crust is internally structured.

"Until now, we could only look at it from the outside," explains Stähler.

While the measurements support the assumption that Mars is seismically active, the signals are still too quiet to give any indication of the inner geological structure of the planet beneath the crust one of the goals of the InSight mission.

The researchers now hope that stronger quakes will allow them to draw even further conclusions in the future about the deep interior of Mars.

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