NASA’s Insight Mars lander recorded a magnitude 5 earthquake on the Red Planet last week, the biggest rumble ever seen on another world.
The news is coming just a week later the lander confirmed the intensities and locations of its previous largest earthquakes. These occurred in August and September 2021 and were magnitudes 4.1 and 4.2. They are now usurped by the violent event of May 4th.
Earthquakes between magnitudes 4 and 5 are often felt but usually cause only minor damage, according to Britannica. InSight was sent to Mars in 2018 to study the core, mantle and crust that make up the Martian interior, as well as the “marsquakes” that emanate from the planet’s interior.
Since then, InSight has detected more than 1,000 earthquakes, but nothing as intense as the recent event, which was picked up by the lander’s seismometer. Last year, InSight data gave NASA scientists the most important results watch inside the planet so far.
It may take some time for planetary scientists to infer more about the origin of the recent earthquake, as was the case with the significant events of the past year. This is because when marsquakes occur, they emit seismic waves that reflect off materials inside Mars. These reflections can reveal information about the Martian interior, but they take a while to unravel.
InSight’s tenure on the Red Planet hasn’t been all victories. After several failed attempts to get the “Mole” thermal probe to dig into the Martian regolith, NASA finally gave up on the project, which was to be a central part of the mission. More recently, the lander’s solar panels were covered in dust, which raised concerns about the spacecraft’s ability to stay alive. So far it continues to kick and pick up huge tremors along the way.