Mars SHOCK: British-built sensors detect 400 marsquakes proving planet is ‘alive’

The tremors were detected by a set of silicon sensors developed in the UK for InSight’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). Data collected offers vital information about the internal mechanisms which drive the planet, as well as clues about how planets including Earth came to form in the first place, billions of years ago.

Detecting hundreds of marsquakes on a planet 140 million miles from Earth, using sensors developed in the UK, is an important achievement

Science Minister Amanda Solloway

Imperial College London, Oxford University and STFC RAL Space worked in partnership, with the help of £4 million supplied by the UK Space Agency, to develop three sensors capable of detecting motion at sub-atomic scales.

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Detecting hundreds of marsquakes on a planet 140 million miles from Earth, using sensors developed in the UK, is an important achievement.

“This is an example of how world-leading UK science and our growing space sector contribute to international missions, furthering human understanding of the Solar System.”


InSight: More than 400 marsquakes have been confirmed so far (Image: PA)

InSight lander

The InSight lander has confirmed the planet to be seismically active (Image: PA)

NASA pioneering mission is the first to look deep beneath the Martian surface and confirmed the first-ever recorded Marsquake on April 6 2019.

By the end of last year, it was detecting an average of two quakes every day, proving the Red Planet is very much geologically “alive”.

The findings suggest that Mars experiences quakes more frequently, but also more mildly than had been anticipated with the largest measuring 4.0 in magnitude.

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InSight lander

InSight lander: An artist’s impression of it entering the Martian atmosphere (Image: PA)

Seismic waves change as they move through different materials, enabling scientists to understand Mars’s inner structure.

From this, they are also able to glean information about the way in which other rocky planets came into being in the wake of the birth of the solar system.

InSight is also equipped with other instruments to measure the Martian wind, magnetic field and temperature.

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InSight lander

InSight lander: The craft features UK-designed sensors (Image: PA)

Scientists set out the findings from the mission in a series of six papers published today in Nature and Nature: Geoscience.

Speaking to prior to InSight’s launch in May 2018, Principal Investigator, Bruce Banerdt said: This will be the first mission to probe the depths of Mars and map out the detailed structure of its interior.

“For InSight, marsquakes will act like flashbulbs that will allow us to “see” what is inside Mars. Each marsquake will send vibrations, or waves, travelling through the planet.

UK space industry in numbers

UK space industry in numbers (Image: Daily Express)

“These waves are modified by the material they pass through, so when we record them with our seismometer we can decode this information and start to put together a 3-D picture of the inside of Mars.

“Mars is much less active than the Earth but considerably more active than the Moon.

“InSight’s measurements will help establish exactly how active the planet is, and together with the determination of the interior structure, we will be able to better estimate its history of activity.

InSight lander

Scientists say understanding more about the seismic activity of other planets could reveal clues about how the solar system formed (Image: PA)

“We will get information about the general chemistry of rocks in the deep crust and mantle, which will tell us something about the amount of water contained in these rocks (in trace amounts).”

This decade will see several missions to Mars, not least ExoMars 2020, a joint European Space Agency/Roscosmos mission which is due to launch in the summer.

Onboard will be Rosalind Franklin, previously known as the ExoMars Rover, which will drill into the surface in search of traces of past or present life.

The sophisticated vehicle was designed and built at Airbus Space and Defence in Stevenage in Hertfordshire.