NASA Records Quake on Mars, and It's Gorgeously Eerie (Audio)

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Public Domain. European Space Agency & Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team ESA/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

For the first time ever, NASA has recorded a likely marsquake – listen to the haunting tremor here.

Did you ever imagine that other planets would have earthquakes? Of course, they wouldn’t be earthquakes, per se, but venusquakes or saturnquakes? Although it is Earth’s tectonic plates that inspire our trembles and shudders, as it turns out, we’re not the only orb that gets to have all the fun.

Last century, NASA’s Apollo astronauts installed seismometers that measured thousands of quakes on our own little moon between 1969 and 1977. And now for the first time ever, the agency has recorded seismic activity on Mars.
NASA’s InSight Mars lander placed a seismometer on the red planet last December. By studying the interior of Mars, they hope to better understand how other celestial bodies – like Earth and the moon – were created.

On April 6 (the 128th Martian day (sol) of the mission) a seismic signal was detected and recorded, marking the first recorded trembling to originate from the planet’s interior, rather than being born on the surface from wind or other forces.

“InSight’s first readings carry on the science that began with NASA’s Apollo missions,” said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We’ve been collecting background noise up until now, but this first event officially kicks off a new field: Martian seismology!”

Like the quakes on the moon, the Mars temblor would not have been caused by the movement of tectonic plates, since they don’t exist there, but by a constant cooling and contraction that creates stress, explains NASA. Eventually, the stress builds until it finds relief by breaking the crust and causing the shake.

“The Martian Sol 128 event is exciting because its size and longer duration fit the profile of moonquakes detected on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters.

For now, the specific origin of Sol 128 remains a bit ambiguous and scientists are still examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal. But regardless, it’s a big deal.

“We’ve been waiting months for a signal like this,” said Philippe Lognonné, SEIS team lead at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) in France. “It's so exciting to finally have proof that Mars is still seismically active. We're looking forward to sharing detailed results once we've had a chance to analyze them.”

In the meantime, we’ve got video with audio. The audio has been sped up by a factor of 60, NASA says that otherwise the vibrations would not have been audible to the human ear. Regardless of the speed, the outer space quake has a wonderful and otherworldly Martian feel. How wondrous it is that we can listen to the rumblings of a planet some 140 million miles away.

NASA recommends listening with headphones for the best experience.