The strongest quake ever recorded on Mars and any planet other than Earth was a magnitude 5 quake that rattled the Red Planet on 4 May, according to NASA’s Insight lander.
While Nasa scientists are still evaluating the data, the preliminary findings elicited an enthusiastic “wow” from Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of Nasa’s scientific directorate, who published the findings on Twitter.
Since landing on Mars in late 2018, NASA’s Insight lander has recorded 1,313 quakes, the biggest of which was a 4.2 magnitude quake on August 25, 2021, which preceded the 4 May tremor. While a magnitude 5 earthquake on Earth would be considered modest in intensity, Insight team scientists at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which oversees the mission, said it is close to the greatest intensity they expect to discover on Mars.
“We’ve been waiting for ‘the big one’ since we set our seismometer down in December 2018,” said Bruce Banerdt, the Insight team’s principal investigator. “This quake will undoubtedly bring a unique perspective on the world. For years to come, scientists will be examining this data to learn new things about Mars.”
The Insight lander, which is equipped with an extremely sensitive seismometer developed by the French Centre National d’Études Spatiales, allows scientists to examine the internal structure of Mars.
In July 2021, Insight scientists presented findings indicating that Mars’ core is larger than predicted, for example, after using recordings of Mars quakes to create a three-dimensional model of what lies beneath the Red Planet’s surface. Scientists publicly sought for a greater quake at the time in order to improve their understanding of Mars’ interior structure.
In 2021, Nasa planetary scientist Mark Panning told the Associated Press, “Fingers crossed, we would love to see some greater occurrences.”