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Scientists just felt the Red Planet move under their feet — robotically from millions of miles away, on the stark surface of Mars.
On April 6, NASA's InSight lander sensed its first confirmed marsquake, a phenomenon scientists suspected, but couldn't confirm, occurred on the neighboring planet. Measuring the Martian equivalent of earthquakes, seismic waves traveling through the interior of the planet, was among the lander's key science goals.
Months - Marsquake - Philippe - Lognonné - Investigator
"We've been waiting months for our first marsquake," Philippe Lognonné, the principal investigator for the seismometer instrument, said in a statement released by the French space agency, which runs the instrument with the national research center. "It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active."
Related: NASA's InSight Mars Lander 'Hears' Martian Wind, a Cosmic First
NASA - Mars - InSight - Lander - Photograph
NASA's Mars InSight lander snapped this photograph of its shielded seismometer on April 7, 2019.
Scientists never thought marsquakes would be as frequent as their terrestrial equivalents are because Mars doesn't sport the tectonic plates whose jostling interactions prompt many quakes here on Earth. But they suspected that the stress caused by the slow cooling of the body could trigger sporadic quakes as energy rippled through the planet's interior.
Proof - Case - April - Detector - Lander
Now, they have their first proof that's the case. On April 6, the incredibly sensitive seismic detector the lander brought with it captured a tiny movement from the interior of the planet. The tentatively confirmed signal may have company from similar tremors measured on March 14, April 10 and April 11, but scientists aren't positive yet what triggered those incidents and can't confirm their shakes reflect interior activity.
The scientists behind the seismometer always knew they were facing a tricky challenge. The instrument had to be carefully designed if it was to succeed in picking up incredibly precise signals. It also needed protection from the wind, which is why...
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