Unraveling the mystery of the strongest Martian earthquake

Oxford University researchers, working with the International Space Agency, have determined that the largest Martian tremor ever recorded, S1222a, was caused by tectonic forces, not a meteorite impact, and that Mars may be more seismically active than previously thought. (Artist’s impression of the aftermath of a Martian earthquake.)

Global collaboration under leadership University of Oxford Determined to be the largest seismic event tuesday, known as S1222a, was not caused by a meteorite impact. Rather, a recorded event NASAThe Inside Lander lasted more than six hours, believed to be a result of the immense tectonic forces in the Martian crust. The discovery suggests that Mars is more seismically active than previously believed, which could have implications for future life attempts on the planet. The results were published in the journal on October 17 Geophysical Research Letters.

Background to the Mars Quake Event

The 4.7-magnitude quake, which shook the planet for at least six hours, was recorded by NASA’s Inside lander on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Because its seismic signal was similar to previous earthquakes. The team believed that the event (named ‘S1222a’) could have been caused by an impact with meteorite impacts, and launched an international search for a new crater.

The Inside Lander on Mars

An artist’s rendering of the InSight lander on Mars. InSight, short for interior exploration using seismic surveys, geology and heat transport, is designed to provide the first thorough examination of the Red Planet since its formation 4.5 billion years ago. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Although Mars is smaller than Earth, it has the same land mass as it lacks oceans. In order to explore this huge land – 144 million km2 – Head of research from Oxford University’s Department of Physics Dr. Benjamin Fernando solicited contributions from them. European Space Agency, China National Space Agency, Indian Space Research Organization and United Arab Emirates Space Agency. It is believed to be the first time that all Mars orbiters have collaborated on a single project.

Look for evidence of impact

During its time on Mars, InSight (which was co-designed by the University of Oxford) recorded at least 8 Martian events caused by meteorite impacts. The largest of these created two 150m diameter craters. If event S1222a was created by an impact, the crater would be expected to be at least 300 m in diameter. Each team analyzed data from their satellites orbiting Mars to look for a new crater or some other signature of an impact (eg a dust cloud that appears within hours of an earthquake).

After months of searching, the team announced that no new crater had been found. They conclude that this phenomenon was caused by the release of enormous tectonic forces in the Martian interior. This indicates that the planet is more seismically active than previously thought.

“This project represents a major international effort to help solve the mystery of S1222a, and I am incredibly grateful for all the work that has contributed. “I hope this project will serve as a template for productive international collaboration in deep space.”

Dr Benjamin Fernando, Department of Physics, University of Oxford.

Dr. Fernando said: “We think that Mars does not have active plate tectonics today, so this phenomenon could have been caused by the release of pressure in the Martian crust. These pressures are the result of billions of years of evolution; including the cooling and contraction of different parts of the planet at different rates. We still don’t fully understand why it has higher pressures than , but results like this help further research. One day, this information may help us understand where it’s safe for humans to live on Mars and where you want to avoid!

Expert views on innovation

Science Coordinator for the High-Resolution Stereo Camera on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft, Dr. Daniela Dirsch said: “This experiment shows how important it is to maintain a wide range of instruments on Mars, and we are very happy to have played our part in completing the multi-instrument and international approach of this study.”

NASA Mars Inside

This illustration shows NASA’s Mars Inside lander on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA

From China, Dr. Jianjun Liu (National Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences) added: “We are ready and proud to collaborate with scientists around the world to share and use these scientific data to gain more knowledge about Mars. Data from color imagers.

Dr. Dimitra Adri, Team Leader for Mars New York University A contributor of data from the Hope spacecraft from Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates said: “This has been a great opportunity for me to work with the INSIDE team and individuals from other key missions dedicated to the exploration of Mars. This is truly the golden age of Mars exploration!”

Conclusions and future directions

S1222a is one of the last events recorded by InSight before its mission ends in December 2022. Using the knowledge from this study, the team is now moving forward, including future missions to the Moon and Titan. Sat.

Reference: Benjamin Fernando, Ingrid J. Tauber, Konstantinos Saralumbus, Peter M. “A Tectonic Origin for the Largest Martian Earthquake Observed by InSight” by Grindrod, Alexander Stott, Abdullah Al Adeghi, Dimitra Adri, Chavas Silan, Ma Clinville, John Clinville, Benjamin Fernando Ernest Hauber, Jonathan R. Hill, Taichi Kawamura, Jianjun Liu, Anthony Lucas, Ralph Lawrence, Lujendra Oja, Clement Perrin, Sylvain Picoux, Simon Stahler, Daniela Dirsch, Colin Wilson, Natalia Wojikolip, Domenini Bikonib, Domenini Bikonib Zilipko, Domeninci Bikonib, Lawrence. Banner, 17 October 2023, Geophysical Research Letters.
DOI: 10.1029/2023GL103619

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