(ORDO NEWS) — The massive, record-breaking earthquake that rocked Mars this past May has hit a new study that is at least five times larger than the previous record holder.
It’s not clear what the source of the earthquake was, but it was definitely peculiar. In addition to being the most powerful earthquake ever recorded on Mars, it was also the longest by a significant amount, shaking the red planet for 10 hours.
“The energy released by this single quake is equivalent to the combined energy of all other quakes we have seen so far,” says seismologist John Clinton of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland, “and although the event occurred over 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, the waves registered by InSight were so large that they almost completely filled our seismometer.”
A new analysis of the earthquake, published in Geophysical Research Letters, showed a magnitude of 4.7. The previous record holder was a magnitude 4.2 earthquake recorded in August 2021.
By earthly standards, this may not seem like a very strong earthquake. , where the most powerful earthquake ever recorded had a magnitude of about 9.5.
But for a planet that was thought to be seismically inactive until NASA‘s InSight probe began recording its interior in early 2019, that’s impressive.
While Mars and Earth have a lot in common, there are some really key differences as well. Mars has no tectonic plates; nor does it have a coherent global magnetic field, which is often interpreted as a sign that little is happening inside Mars, since in theory the Earth’s magnetic field is the result of internal thermal convection.
InSight has shown that Mars is not as seismically quiet as we previously thought. It creaks and rumbles, alluding to volcanic activity beneath the Cerberus pit region , where the InSight Lander is crouching to watch the planet’s hidden interiors.
However, determining the activity of the Martian interior is not the only reason to track marsquakes. The way seismic waves propagate through and across a planet’s surface can help reveal density changes in its interior. In other words, they can be used to reconstruct the structure of the planet.
This is usually done here on Earth , but hundreds of earthquakes recorded by InSight have allowed scientists to map the Martian interior .
The May quake may have been just one seismic event, but it appears to have been an important one.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to identify surface waves moving through the Earth’s crust and upper mantle that circled the planet multiple times,” Clinton says .
In two separate papers in Geophysical Research Letters , teams of scientists have analyzed these waves to try to understand the crustal structure on Mars by identifying areas of sedimentary rock. rock and possible volcanic activity inside the earth’s crust.
But there is still much to be done about the earthquake itself. First, it originated near but not from the area of Cerberus Fossae and could not be traced by any obvious surface features. This suggests that it may be related to something hidden under the earth’s crust.
Secondly, marsquakes usually have either high or low frequency. , the former are characterized by fast short shocks, and the latter by longer and deeper waves with greater amplitude.
This quake combined both frequency ranges, and the researchers aren’t quite sure why. However, it is possible that previously recorded high-frequency and low-frequency marsquakes, analyzed separately, may be two parts of the same seismic event.
This could mean that scientists need to rethink how marsquakes are understood and analyzed, revealing even more secrets lurking beneath the deceptively quiet Martian surface.
“It was definitely the biggest quake we’ve ever seen,” says planetary scientist Taichi Kawamura of the Paris Globe Institute of Physics in France.
“Stay tuned in for more cool content after this.”
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