Mars is not dead.
NASA announced Thursday that its InSight lander, which probes geological activity on Mars, recently recorded “two strong and clear earthquakes” in the same region where the lander previously observed two large earthquakes in 2019. This indicates a seismically active zone on Mars. – a place which looks dry and devoid of life on its surface, but which could be active underground.
“The 3.3 and 3.1 magnitude tremors originate in a region called Cerberus Fossae, further supporting the idea that this location is seismically active,” NASA wrote. The new earthquakes occurred on March 7 and 18.
(These are considered relatively mild earthquakes on Earth, but they are certainly rumblings that people can feel, depending on their proximity and the depth of the quake.)
Cerberus Fossae is an area of Mars with steep troughs crossing a landscape of ancient volcanic plains. There is evidence of landslides here, with rocks possibly dislodged by recurrent shaking.
The InSight lander has recorded more than 500 earthquakes so far (it landed in November 2018), which suggests that there may indeed be volcanically active places in the Martian subsoil, possibly of hot molten rock (magma) moving and flowing as it does on Earth.
The subterranean magma may have even created the planetary scientists of the underground lakes detected under the south pole of Mars in 2018. “You need a heat source,” said Ali Bramson, scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the ‘University of Arizona, at Mashable in 2019. “What could be causing this heat source?” Bramson asked. “The only thing we could really find is an underground magma chamber that must have been active recently.”
Now is the time to record more Martian earthquakes. On Mars, the northern winter season can be deeply windy, causing InSight’s seismometer to tremble and may make detecting earthquakes impossible. But now the winds have died down.
“It’s wonderful to see earthquakes again after a long period of recording wind noise,” John Clinton, a seismologist with the InSight team, said in a statement.