What is a “Marsquake?”


Earthquakes have been in the news quite a bit lately thanks to a small series of surprisingly powerful ones that hit California just a few weeks ago.  As Earth continues to get rocked by these fairly frequent events, NASA scientists are recording an entirely different kind of rumbling that takes place in space – Mars, to be exact.  Marsquakes, as they’re unsurprisingly known, have only been detected recently, but we have collected enough data by now to be able to understand them pretty well while also developing a deeper grasp on what it is that makes Mars’ makeup so unique.

If you’re fascinated by the many recent discoveries made regarding Mars, you’ll be pretty interested in hearing about Marsquakes and how they differ from the quakes that we’re used to here on our home planet.  We’ll be explaining these quakes in detail so that you can see how this planet is so different from, yet so similar to, our own.

Marsquake 101

Researchers are finding more and more similarities between Mars and our own planet, which is why it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Mars is prone to quakes of its own.  The quakes that take place on Mars feel a lot like ours, but they’re different in a number of ways. 

Interestingly, Mars does not have plate tectonics, which we have here on Earth.  It’s because of these plate tectonics that earthquakes are associated with such a massive scale of destruction.  As the plates shift, expansive levels of ground become unstable, wreaking havoc on entire cities.

On Mars, the structure is a bit different.  The shaking is still felt, but there is nothing shifting beneath the surface.  This means that buildings, for instance, would be far less likely to collapse on themselves.

Marsquakes are also far less frequent than Earthquakes.  Interestingly, it was initially believed that they occur on a monthly or so basis, but now, researchers are thinking that only a handful of quakes take place each year, based on observations made over the last year or so.

How Marsquakes are Detected by NASA

The first Marsquake was detected on April 6 of 2019, and it provided researchers with a wealth of information regarding the planet’s structure.  It was, in fact, the United Kingdom that came up with the technology needed to record the seismic waves that Marsquakes produce.  This allows researchers to record the magnitude of each quake.  The quake had a 2.5 magnitude, which is relatively small compared to the quakes that we experience.

Now, this technology was only put in use in December of 2018, which means that the number of quakes recorded as of now is very, very low.  As more quakes take place, researchers will be able to gather more data regarding them and the effects that they have on the planet.

What This All Means

As you can see, Earth is not the only planet prone to rumbling.  Marsquakes have almost definitely been a reality for as long as earthquakes have been for us, but it hasn’t been until very recently that we’ve been able to observe them.  Thanks to the highly advanced space technology of today, we can measure and study these quakes so that we can gain a deeper understanding of what makes Mars so unique, as well as the ways in which it’s similar to Earth.

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