Scientists at NASA have reported an exciting discovery of its Insight lander on Mars – mysterious rumblings coming from the interior of the planet.
Scientists believe that seismic events may be caused by a sudden release of energy from the planet’s interior, but the nature of this release remains unknown and confusing.
Captivatingly, it is believed that the new rumblings originated from a place on Mars called Cerberus Fossae, where two other previous graduate events are believed to have originated.
Although these rumblings have sometimes been called “Marsquakes”, it is not believed that the planet has a similar active tectonic system as Earth̵
And oddly enough, the previous seismic events discovered by the space agency’s InSight lander – which arrived on the planet’s surface in 2018 – were almost an entire March year ago or two Earth years during the northern summer on Mars.
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Scientists had predicted that this season would offer the lander the best opportunity to listen for earthquakes because the wind on the planet would be calmer.
InSight’s seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), is so sensitive that it must be covered by a dome-shaped shield to block it from wind and prevent it from freezing when in use.
Despite this, the wind can still cause sufficient vibration to hide the seismic signals it is looking for, and so the NASA team has begun trying to isolate the sensitive cable.
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To do this, the team inserted the scoop on the end of the InSight’s robotic arm into shiny ground on top of the dome-shaped shield, lowering it onto the cable.
The intention is to let the soil get as close to the shield as possible without disturbing its sealing with the soil.
Burial of the seismic tether itself is one of the goals for the next phase of the mission, which NASA recently extended by two years to December 2022.
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But despite the interruption that the wind causes InSight’s seismometer, it does not give much of a hand to the lander’s solar panels, which remain covered in dust.
Power is now running dry as Mars moves away from the sun, although energy levels are expected to rise towards after July, when the planet begins to approach the sun again.
Until then, the team will turn off InSight’s instruments one by one so it can hibernate, only waking up periodically to check its own health and sending a message back to Earth.
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NASA said the team hopes to keep the seismometer on for another month or two before turning it off.
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