Since landing on Mars in November 2018, the InSight spacecraft’s French-built seismometer has detected more than 450 seismic signals to date, according to NASA. Scientists believe the “vast majority” of the signals are probably from quakes, but some could be generated by wind.
What is InSight?
- The InSight mission is part of NASA’s Discovery Program.
- InSight is the first mission dedicated to looking deep beneath the Martian surface.
- Among its science tools are a
- seismometer for detecting quakes,
- sensors for gauging wind and air pressure,
- a magnetometer, and
- a heat flow probe designed to take the planet’s temperature.
- InSight mission is being supported by a number of European partners, which include France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).
Findings so far:
- Mars trembles more often than expected, but also more mildly. This emerged from readings of the ultra-sensitive seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS).Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth, but it does have volcanically active regions that can cause rumbles.
InSight SEIS has found more than 450 seismic signals to date, the majority of which are believed to be quakes.
- Seismic waves are affected by the materials they move through. As such, they help scientists study the composition of the planet’s inner structure.
- Billions of years ago, Mars had a magnetic field. Although it is no longer present, it left behind what NASA describes as “ghosts” – magnetised rocks that are now between 61 m to several km below ground. InSight is equipped with a magnetometer, which has detected magnetic signals.At a Martian site called Homestead hollow, the magnetic signals are 10 times stronger than what was predicted earlier
- InSight measures wind speed, direction and air pressure nearly continuously. Weather sensors have detected thousands of passing whirlwinds, which are called dust devils when they pick up grit and become visible.