NASA’s InSight Experiences its Most Powerful Marsquake so far: Magnitude 4.2, Lasting 90 Minutes

NASA's InSight lander detected one of the strongest and longest-lasting quakes ever recorded on Mars. On Sept. 18, the big marsquake occurred on Earth. This coincided with InSights 1,000th Martian Day, or sol, since its landing on Mars.
The magnitude of the temblor was 4.2. It shook for over an hour and a half. Comparatively, Earthquakes usually last only a few seconds. However, two quakes in 1960 and 2004 lasted about 10 minutes. Scientists continue to study the data from this marsquake in order to understand why and how it lasted so long.

The quake was followed by two other large quakes, both of which occurred on August 25, (on Earth), with magnitudes of 4.2 or 4.1. InSight's previous largest quake was a magnitude-3.7 quake in 2019.

InSight scientists will also be able determine the distance of the earthquake from InSight. The magnitude 4.2 earthquake, which occurred on August 25, was located approximately 5,280 miles (8.500 kilometers) away from InSight. It is the farthest distant temblor that the lander has seen so far.

InSights Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (or SEIS) detects and studies seismic waves traveling through the planet's crust, core, and mantle. This gives scientists a chance to see inside Mars and uncover more about its interior. The domed Wind Shield and Thermal Shield protect the instrument.

InSights thermal shield and domed wind cover the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure. This image shows the robotic arm of the landers robot, which was taken on the 110th Martian Day, or sol, during the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltec

InSight's solar panels power its operation. InSight was able to detect three large quakes and keep it warm thanks to a clever maneuver that InSight performed earlier in the year. The two-year-old prime mission was completed by the landers solar panels. They are now powering InSight through an extension of two years.

Bruce Banerdt, InSights principal investigator at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, (JPL), said that if we had not acted sooner this year, we may have missed some amazing science. Mars still seems to have something special with these two quakes that have unique characteristics, even after two years.

NASA claims that solar panels are a more efficient way to power missions. They also require fewer moving parts, which means there is less chance of failure. Engineers say that a spacecraft equipped with fans or brushes to remove dust from the surface of Mars would increase its weight and lead to more failure points.

Caption: NASA's InSight Lander selfie is a mosaic of 14 images taken by the instrument deployment camera on the robotic arm of its spacecraft Instrument Deployment Camera on March 15, and April 11, respectively. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Source: JPL