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NASA's InSight lander detected a quake on Mars

On May 4th, NASA's InSight lander detected a quake on Mars, the largest ever observed on another planet. The rover first landed on Mars in November 2018 and, since then, heard 1,313 quakes. Previously, the largest recorded "marsquake" was detected in August 2021.

 

What are marsquakes, and why do they happen?

 

On Earth, quakes are generally caused by shifts in tectonic plates. While Mars does not have tectonic plates, and its crust is a giant plate; hence, NASA notes that 'marsquakes' are caused due to stresses that cause rock fractures or faults in their crust.

 

The significance of detecting marsquakes is:

With the help of more minor quakes recorded earlier, scientists charted the thickness of the crust, mantle, and core of Mars. Large quakes will help find the precise location of the epicentre and help understand the interior of Mars.

 

So what is InSight doing on Mars?

 

Firstly, InSight is not looking for life on Mars but studying what Mars is made of, how its material is layered, and how much heat seeps out of it. This is important because back then Earth and Mars used to be similar, i.e., warm, wet and shrouded in thick atmospheres before they took different paths around 3-4 billion years ago. Mars stopped changing while Earth continued to evolve. With InSight, scientists hope to compare Mars and Earth to understand better how a planet's starting materials make us understand how planets evolve and change.

 

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