Scientists detected the largest known earthquake on Mars so far this year. Seismic waves caused by earthquakes have revealed unusual traces in the planet’s crust. These are the remnants of a previous possible collision of Mars with a powerful cosmic body. The strong earthquake was recorded by the Insight probe, which has been on the planet since 2018.
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Previous data had already indicated that the Red Planet had collided with a massive object, such as an asteroid, in the past. The shape of the planet’s surface—lowlands in the Northern Hemisphere and highlands occurring mostly in the Southern Hemisphere—was explained by the strong influence of a space rock rather than the lowlands.
Now this hypothesis has been supported by observations of the most powerful earthquake known to Mars. The tremors mentioned by scientists occurred in May of this year and had a magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter scale and lasted for 4 hours. In total, five times more energy was released this way than during the previous largest earthquake. By Earth standards, the shock was fairly strong, but powerful enough to send waves around the planet. No one has ever observed such a phenomenon on Mars before.
Data on the new earthquake was provided by the InSight probe, which landed on the planet in 2018.
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“InSight’s seismometer recorded thousands of earthquakes, but none of them were of the same magnitude. The sampler had to wait three years to register such an event, ”- notes the prof. Carolyn Begin, co-author of the discovery described in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
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This earthquake generated different types of waves compared to previous earthquakes, including two types of waves that were trapped near the surface. Only one of these waves was observed on Mars and was generated after two collisions of other bodies, never during a planetary earthquake, ”- the expert emphasizes.
Analysis of seismic waves can reveal a wealth of information about a planet’s interior to experts; Similarly, the Earth’s interior is being studied.
“The observed waves can explain multilayered volcanic and sedimentary rocks that were formed long ago, or a very strong collision with another body, such as a meteorite,” says Prof. Begin.
The knowledge gathered about the inner layers of the planet can not only reveal the history of Mars, but, experts assure, will also help in planning future missions, including manned ones.
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