Giant unexplained earthquake recorded on Mars

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A new study has found that in May 2022, a huge earthquake rocked Mars. The results of the study are published in Geophysical Research Letters.

The source of the quake is not yet known, but it certainly was unusual. In addition to being the most powerful earthquake recorded on Mars, it was also the longest at 10 hours.

“The energy released by this single earthquake on Mars is equivalent to the combined energy of all other marsquakes we have seen so far,” says seismologist John Clinton of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland.

Earthquake spectrogram recorded on May 4, 2022. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / ETH Zurich)

“Although the event occurred at a distance of more than 2000 kilometers, the waves recorded in InSight were so large that they reached our seismometer.”

A new analysis of the quake, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, puts it at a magnitude of 4.7. The previous record holder was a magnitude 4.2 earthquake recorded in August 2021.

By Earth’s standards, this may not seem like a very large earthquake, with the most powerful earthquake ever recorded reaching a magnitude of around 9.5. But for a planet that was thought to be seismically inactive, this is impressive.

While Mars and Earth have a lot in common, there are some really key differences. There are no tectonic plates on Mars.

However, it does not have a coherent global magnetic field, which is often interpreted as a sign that little is happening in the interior of Mars, since the Earth’s magnetic field is theoretically the result of internal thermal convection.

Now InSight has shown that Mars is not as seismically quiet as we previously thought. It creaks and rumbles, hinting at ongoing volcanic activity beneath the Cerberus region, where the InSight lander is located, observing the hidden interior of the planet.

Some researchers of the alternative point of view believe that the volcanic activity of Mars is not to blame, since it has not been proven that it exists. And the nature of an earthquake can be very exotic.