May 21, 2024

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NASA’s InSight probe detects the largest ‘earthquake’ on the Red Planet to date

NASA's InSight probe detects the largest 'earthquake' on the Red Planet to date

NASA’s InSight lander on Mars has detected a force of 5 degrees from a ‘swamp’ Biggest one the spacecraft has ever felt where Landing on the planet in November 2018. It’s an important moment that comes during a difficult time for InSight, as the spacecraft’s solar panels continue to collect dust that will eventually end the rover’s life on Mars.

InSight’s mission to the Red Planet was Investigating the interior of Mars, primarily by sensing tremors from the surface. Unlike earthquakes here on Earth, which are usually caused by shifting tectonic plates, the cause of “quakes” is thought to be the cooling of Mars over time, causing the planet’s crust to become more brittle and cracked. Equipped with a highly sensitive seismometer made by the French space agency, InSight has detected more than 1,313 earthquakes since landing three and a half years ago, according to NASA.

The initial earthquakes that Insight felt were Relatively low volume. Before now, the largest earthquake observed by the spacecraft had a magnitude of 4.2. This latest pentagon, discovered on May 4th, is still very weak compared to those we sometimes see on Earth, but NASA says it’s close to the strongest type of earthquake scientists expect to see on Mars. Now, the InSight team will delve into the data from the earthquake to learn more about its origin and scope. “Since we tuned our seismometer in December 2018, we’ve been waiting for the large seismometer,” said Bruce Banerdt, NASA’s principal InSight investigator, in a statement. “This earthquake is sure to provide a view of the planet like no other.”

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Spectrograph of the magnitude 5 swamp earthquake detected by InSight.
Photo: NASA

It’s a win for InSight, who has struggled since his relegation. The mission’s first major problem arose when the spacecraft attempted to deploy one of its key instruments shortly after landing: a heat probe called the Mole. Designed to burrow themselves beneath the surface of Mars to measure the planet’s internal temperature, the mole could never have gained the right friction it needed to dig deep into the soil. Aiming to reach a depth of 16 feet, the mole barely made it directly below the surface. Finally, after two years of trying, NASA I decided to end the mole digging attempts In order to focus on InSight’s overall mission.

But InSight has also been having a rough time lately. in january, Dense dust storm on Mars It blocked enough sunlight from reaching InSight’s solar panels, reducing the spacecraft’s power supply. In response, InSight entered safe mode, a type of operating procedure in which the spacecraft stops all but the basic missions it needs to survive. Eventually, InSight exited safe mode and started producing full power again. But dust keeps accumulating on InSight’s solar panels, and the car has no way of cleaning its instrumentation significantly (although NASA has tried Some unconventional techniques). Since there is no particularly strong wind to blow the dust, InSight will eventually stop producing enough power to keep working, which is It is expected to happen later this year.

Despite all this, InSight achieved its main goals as expected. Its primary mission ended in December of 2020, and the probe is currently on its extended mission, which will run until December of 2022. So far, there is still plenty of time to detect more earthquakes until the power runs out.