In 2018, the InSight probe landed on Mars to record and study seismic activity on the Red Planet. Recently, the probe detected two tremors of magnitude 3.3 and 3.11 coming from the region of Cerberus Fossae – which, incidentally, is the same place where tremors of magnitude 3.6 and 3.5 occurred, right at the beginning of the mission. . So far, the mission has recorded more than 500 tremors, but as these had clearer signs, they were four of the best records ever made.
These new tremors were recorded during the summer of the northern hemisphere of Mars, a feature in common with other seismic events that occurred almost a year ago Martian (which is equivalent to two on Earth). In fact, it was already expected by scientists that this would be the best time to detect them, because this is a time when the winds are calmer there – the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) seismometer is so sensitive that even vibration caused by the wind can “hide” tidal waves, so much so that there were no detections last winter.
Studying the so-called “martemotos” – which is the name given to the seismic tremors of Mars – is a way for the scientific team of the mission to better understand what happens in the mantle and core of the planet. Although Mars does not have tectonic plates like Earth, our neighbor has volcanically active regions, which can cause earthquakes, and this may be the case for Cerberus Fossae. With the new tremors recorded, this region becomes a candidate for a central site of seismic activity.
Taichi Kawamura, who helped provide the InSight seismometer and distribute the data, explains that the team has already observed two types of tidal waves throughout the mission: one is more like the tremors of the Moon, and the other is more like those of the Moon. Earth. In the case of the former, the waves tend to be more spread out, while the other type has waves that travel more directly across the planet: “the most interesting thing is that all the larger tremors, coming from Cerberus Fossae, look like Earthquakes on Earth “, he said.
Now, to increase the ability to “hear” the tremors, scientists are looking for a way to protect the cable that connects the seismometer to the lander from climate variations – extreme temperature variations may be causing the cable to expand and spread. contract, which causes some false detections in the data. For this, the mission team is using the shell at the end of the InSight robotic arm to throw soil on the dome that protects the equipment, bringing it closer and without interfering with the seal with the ground.
Burying the cable is one of the tasks of the next phase of the mission, which was recently extended until 2022. In addition to the issue of wind causing the seismometer to vibrate, InSight’s solar panels are still covered with dust, and the energy that powers it is getting less with Mars moving away from the Sun. Energy levels are expected to increase after July, when the planet approaches our star again; until then, the team should occasionally turn off the instruments for InSight to “hibernate”, waking up from time to time for verification and testing of communication with Earth.
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