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InSight probe reveals that "tidal waves" are more frequent than NASA scientists thought

Since the InSight spacecraft arrived on Mars in November 2018, NASA has been paying close attention to what is going on beneath the surface of the Red Planet. The American Space Agency recently published the first of six studies on Martian seismic activity and, it seems, tidal waves are after all more frequent than scientists thought.

According to the study published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience, the probe has detected about 174 earthquakes since it landed in the Elysium Planitia region, which was considered by researchers to be the most mountainous part of Mars. InSight's Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure was also able to identify more than 10,000 dust storms that were able to cover the entire planet.

Illustration of Martian seismic activity recorded by the InSight probe Credits: NASA

NASA researchers indicate that 24 of the recorded earthquakes had a magnitude above 3 on the Richter scale. To date, the instrument responsible for measuring the pulse on Mars has identified 450 signs of seismic activity. The earthquakes also made it clear to scientists that the Martian crust was drier and more brittle than previously thought. The study points out that these characteristics are a sign of the impact of asteroids on the planet in the past.

The earthquakes recorded on Mars are deeper than the earthquakes, originating at a depth of about 50 kilometers. Scientists elucidate that, while they may seem frightening, tidal waves would not pose a major threat to an astronaut base on the planet. The discoveries made by InSight are helping researchers to discover more about the mysteries that lie beneath the Martian crust and its past.

In October 2019, NASA was able to capture the audio of the two strongest seismic movements detected by the InSight probe. The "tidal waves" identified as Sol 173 – of magnitude 3.7 – and Sol 235 – of magnitude 3.3 occurred on May 22 and July 25 of that year. NASA explains that the records originally had a frequency well below that reached by human audio, so the audios were accelerated and processed so that they can be heard normally.

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