The Nasa Insight lander has recorded its first likely ‘marsquake.’ Seismic vibrations of the Martian surface were detected by a set of silicon sensors developed in the UK.
Oxford/UK – The quiet but distinct signal was detected on April 6, 2019 (the 128th Martian day, or sol, of the mission). The signal was detected by Insight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (Seis), which the lander placed on the Martian surface on December 19, 2018.
Dr Neil Bowles, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics, explained that it was now possible to start characterizing the types of signals we see on Mars to try and understand how this relates to the structure of planet. Thanks to the Apollo missions of the 1960s we know that moonquakes exist, Sue Horne, Head of Space Exploration at the UK Space Agency, said. The Mars results coming in, indicate the existence of marsquakes which would lead to a better understanding of what’s below the surface of the red planet, she added.
Seis includes three Short Period sensors (Seis SP) developed in partnership by Imperial College London, Oxford University and STFC RAL Space, with funding from the UK Space Agency. These sensors, carved out of silicon, can detect motion at sub-atomic scales.
In December, the British-developed silicon sensors of Seis captured the first sounds ever recorded directly from Mars -- a haunting, low rumble caused by vibrations from the wind. Recording this wind allows scientists to separate “noise” from actual marsquakes.
Insight, which landed on 26 November 2018, will study the inside of Mars to learn how planets, moons and meteorites with rocky surfaces, including the Earth and its Moon, formed.
Video of First Likely Marsquake Heard by NASA's Insight