Insight Registered the Most Powerful Marsquake in history

On May 4, the Insight spacecraft located on the surface of the Red Planet registered the most powerful quake on Mars during its mission. Its magnitude was 5 points.

Amazing geological activity of Mars

Insight landed on Mars in November 2018. The main purpose of the mission is to study the internal structure of the planet. To do this, Insight unloaded the SEIS seismometer, designed to monitor its tectonic activity.

Seismogram of the Mars quake recorded by the Insight probe on May 4, 2022. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich

As of today, during its stay on Mars, SEIS has registered 1,313 underground vibrations. Their number, as well as their strength, surprised many scientists who believed that geologically the Red Planet is a dead world and marsquakes are an exceptionally rare event there. But Insight’s data forced planetary scientists to reconsider their ideas about Mars. It turned out that the planet is much more active than previously thought, and various processes are still taking place in its depths.

Record Breaking Marsquake

Until recently, the title of the most powerful marsquake was held by an event recorded on August 25, 2021. It was on the opposite side of the planet from the probe and had a magnitude of 4.2 points.

Spectrogram of the Marsquake recorded by the Insight probe on May 4, 2022. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich

But on May 4, 2022, Insight registered even more powerful aftershocks, which had a magnitude of 5 points. By terrestrial standards, this is an earthquake of average strength, but for Mars it is already close to the maximum limit according to planetary scientists. However, the Red Planet has repeatedly presented surprises. So it cannot be ruled out that it can generate even more powerful marsquakes. 

Unfortunately, Insight may not have time to register a new record. As dust settles on the solar panels of the probe, they produce less and less energy. On May 7, their output fell just below the limit that triggers the safe mode. In it, the probe suspends all its functions except the most important ones. According to engineers, by the end of this year, Insight will no longer receive enough energy to survive and will freeze during one of the cold Martian nights.

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