NASA’s Mars InSight lander may have the first recording of a Marsquake

Here’s what a rumbling Red Planet sounds like

Mars InSight lander

READY TO RUMBLE  The Mars InSight lander’s seismometer is protected from strong winds and temperature extremes by this domed shield.


Let’s get ready to rumble: NASA may have just captured the first recording of an earthquake on Mars. On April 6, the Mars InSight lander’s seismometer recorded a short series of howls, grumbles and pings. One of those sounds — a grumble — is probably a Marsquake, representing the first recorded sound from the interior of the Red Planet, scientists say.

The recording, released by NASA April 23, lasts about 40 seconds. It begins with the faint, eerie howling of the Martian wind, followed by the low rumble of the possible Marsquake. A large ping toward the end is the spacecraft’s robotic arm moving.

InSight landed on Mars in November 2018 with a mission to probe the Red Planet’s interior by tracking seismic waves rippling through its insides (SN Online: 11/26/18). Mars is a quiet planet, lacking not only Earth’s powerful quakes caused by shifting tectonic plates but also seismic noises caused by winds and oceans. But the planet does have smaller quakes, crackles and rumbles caused as Mars cools and contracts.

MARS ON THE MOVE Scientists think this seismometer recording represents three different types of sounds: first, Martian wind; second, a possible Marsquake; and third, the movement of the InSight spacecraft’s robotic arm.

Imperial College London, IPGP, CNES, JPL-Caltech/NASA

Scientists hope that InSight’s data will ultimately reveal the planet’s internal structure, including the size and density of its crust, mantle and core, how heat flows through the planet, and even whether there might be water in the interior.

This particular brief recording isn’t long enough to provide much information about the Martian interior, scientists say. But it demonstrates that Mars is seismically active — and kicks off a brand-new field of research: Martian seismology.

Carolyn Gramling is the earth & climate writer. She has bachelor’s degrees in geology and European history and a Ph.D. in marine geochemistry from MIT and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

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