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Monitoring Quakes on Mars

Kevin Gill / Flickr
A simple model of Mars using Mental Ray shaders and slight displacement. View is looking towards the Tharsis region. Rendered using Autodesk Maya.

For the first time, NASA's Mars Insight Lander has measured and recorded a likely "marsquake."

On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Bill Barnhart, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Iowa, about what it means to have an "earthquake" on another planet.

Hear Ben Kieffer's interview with Bill Barnhart

According to Barnhart, the Mars Lander detected a quake on April 6th using its seismometer. This is the largest of the four quakes that has been detected since the Lander was deployed in November 2018.

Compared to earthquakes, marsquakes are barely perceptible.

"The event that was detected in early April is extraordinarily small. Here on Earth, we likely would not have been able to have detected it because of all of the seismic noise caused by things that exist on the Earth that don't exist on Mars," Barnhart says. "Mars is about a thousand times more seismically quiet than the Earth is."

Barnhart says that while the impact of the quake to the planet was small, the data recorded will be able to help us better understand structure of the interior of the red planet. While we know Mars has a core and mantel like Earth does, the information from this marsquake will help us better understand how big these layers are and what they are made of.

Other conversations during the hour include: