What does a marsquake feel like?

Fifty years after Apollo 11 astronauts deployed the first seismometer on the surface of the moon, data from NASA InSight’s seismic experiment has given researchers the opportunity to compare marsquakes to moon and earthquakes.

Southern California got all shook up after a set of recent earthquakes. But Earth isn’t the only place that experiences quakes: Both the moon and Mars have them as well.

The Apollo 11 mission took the first seismometer to the moon in 1969. In late 2018, NASA’s InSight lander brought the first seismometer to Mars. The seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), detected its first marsquake on April 6, 2019. Scientists at ETH Zurich in Switzerland compared moonquakes detected by Apollo-era seismometers, with two quakes recently detected by SEIS on Mars, and quakes recorded here on Earth.

Quakes look and feel different depending on the material their seismic waves pass through. While seismic waves that travel through the Earth typically persist between tens of seconds to a few minutes, moonquakes can last up to an hour or more. The extent of the seismic signal is due to distance and to differences in geological structures.In a new video (above), the researchers demonstrate this by using data from the Apollo-era seismometers on the moon, two of the first quakes detected on Mars by SEIS and quakes recorded here on Earth. By running data from these worlds through a quake simulator, or shake room, scientists can experience for themselves how different the earthquakes can be.

Arc-shaped waves from a point source travel through planet to break upon the surface far away.
This artist’s concept is a simulation of what seismic waves from a marsquake might look like as they move through different layers of the Martian interior. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/ETH Zurich/Van Driel.

Bottom line: New video compares marsquakes, moonquakes, and earthquakes.


August 2, 2019

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