Explained: What is a ‘marsquake’, and what causes it?

What is the News?

NASA has reported that its InSight Mars lander has detected the largest quake ever observed on another planet.

What are marsquakes?

On Earth, quakes are caused by shifts in tectonic plates. However, Mars does not have tectonic plates and its crust is a giant plate.

Therefore, NASA notes, ‘marsquakes’ are caused due to stresses that cause rock fractures or faults in their crust.

What is the Insight Mission?

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What is InSight doing on Mars?

InSight is not looking for life on Mars but is studying what Mars is made of, how its material is layered and how much heat seeps out of it.

This is important because Earth and Mars used to be similar — warm, wet and shrouded in thick atmospheres — before they took different paths 3-4 billion years ago. Mars stopped changing, while Earth continued to evolve.

What are the other characteristics of Mars?

Firstly, Scientists are curious about Mars because of the possible presence of liquid water on it either in the past or preserved in its subsurface. This question makes the planet more intriguing for scientists since almost everywhere there is water on Earth, there is life.

Secondly, if Mars harboured a warmer atmosphere enabling water to flow in its ancient past and if microbial life existed on it, it is possible that it exists in “special regions” even today. 

Note: Some other missions studying the possibility of life on Mars include UAE’s Hope, China’s Tianwen-1 and NASA’s Perseverance.

Source: The post is based on the article Explained: What is a ‘marsquake’, and what causes it? published in Indian Express on 11th May 2022.

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