In 2018, NASA launched the InSight lander to find out more about the interior of Mars through the earthquakes that occur there. On the day 25 in September, the probe reached 1. Martian days — or suns — of mission to the Red Planet, reaching the milestone in style. That day, the probe recorded a 4.2 magnitude “martequake” for nearly an hour and a half, being one of the longest and most intense seismic tremors detected to date. In addition to this, two other strong tremors were also registered.
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The seismic activity data were obtained thanks to the successful removal of dust from one of the lander’s solar panels, which allowed it to keep its seismometer active. This was the third major earthquake identified by InSight in a single month. On the day 25 of August, the probe’s seismometer detected tremors of magnitude 4.2 and 4.1. At the moment, scientists are still investigating the day’s event 500, and they already know a little more about the August events. The 4.2 magnitude marsquake occurred at 8.25 km from the probe, making it the most distant ever recorded and , now, they are still working to determine the origin and direction in which the seismic waves traveled.
For now, they already know that the aftershocks occurred too far away to originate in Cerberus Fossae, the site where there were previous earthquakes. In addition, the August records show phenomena of quite different characteristics: the 4.2 magnitude was a slow-vibrating, low-frequency marsquake, while the 4.1 magnitude one showed fast, high-frequency vibrations, and happened 25 km away from the lander.
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Despite the differences, the two August’s earthquakes have some similarities: not only were they intense, but they occurred during the day, the stage when there is the most wind — and noise, in the case of the seismometer — on Mars. Generally, the instrument detects martequakes during the night, when the planet cools down and the winds calm down. Still, the signs of the August earthquakes were strong enough to stand out amid any wind noise.
Understanding the nature of the planet’s seismic waves is a way for scientists to discover more about the planet’s interior and, as a result, better understand the formation of rocky planets — including the Earth and the Earth. Moon. Incidentally, these tremors might not have been detected if the InSight mission team hadn’t acted during the aphelion of Mars, when the planet was further away from the Sun in its elliptical orbit. With lower temperatures, InSight had to rely more on its heaters to maintain the minimum temperature to function.
However, the excess dust on the solar panels meant that the team had to temporarily turn off some instruments — but not the seismometer, which remained active thanks to an unusual approach. Scientists used InSight’s robotic arm to throw Martian sand near one of the solar panels, so the wind would blow away the grain and help “sweep” some of the dust off the component. The idea worked, and the team watched the probe’s energy levels remain reasonably stable. Now, Mars approaches the Sun again and the spacecraft’s energy increases little by little.
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