NASA’s InSight Records the Largest Quake on Mars to Date

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich.

NASA’s Insight Mars lander was launched on May 5, 2018, with the objective to study the deep interior of Mars. On November 26, 2018, it successfully landed on Mars and began its operations. Among the lander’s scientific equipment is a seismometer, a device used by geologists to detect seismic waves generated by quakes in a planet’s interior. Seismic waves can either pass through or reflect off of different layers within a planet, such as the crust, mantle, and core, in a predictable manner, and thus are invaluable for determining the interior structures of planets. The strength of the quake is significant because the bigger the quake, the better scientists can “see” the details in a planet’s interior. Since the seismometer was set down on the martian surface in December 2018, InSight has detected more than 1300 quakes on Mars, and these quakes can be used to estimate the depth and composition of the layers in the martian interior.

On May 4, 2022, InSight detected the largest quake ever observed on another planet, estimated at a magnitude 5. While this magnitude is only moderate compared with the largest quakes observed on Earth, it is near the expected upper limit for observable quakes on Mars over the duration of InSight’s mission. The data are still being analyzed by the InSight team led by Bruce Banerdt at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They are eager to see the details they can learn regarding the location of the quake, its cause, and the new information that it can tell us about the interior of Mars. The detection of the quake is a fitting end to nearly 3.5 years of valuable data acquisition, as InSight is expected to lose power by the end of summer. READ MORE