French-built seismometer records giant ‘Marsquakes’

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A seismometer built by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris and the space optics specialists Sodern has recorded a monster quake on Mars, the largest ever measured on the red planet.

The instrument, called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, which is part of NASA’s InSight mission on Mars, recorded the 4.7 magnitude quake at a distance of 2,250 km from its epicentre. The latest ‘Marsquake’ beat the mission’s previous record of a 4.2 which was measured in August 2021.

“We have a very sensitive instrument which is able to detect ground vibrations no larger than the size of an atom,” Philippe Lognnoné, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris researcher and principal investigator of the seismometer results, told RFI.

“The seismometer consists of three pendulums which move when the ground shakes. We detect the vibrations of these pendulums at a resolution of 10 picometers which is a tiny fraction of the size of an atom,” Lognonné said.

The Insight mission has been in operation since the end of 2018 when it landed on Mars

“We have been on Mars for almost two Martian years. We have had some issues with the deposition of the dust on the solar panels. As a result, with each passing day we get less energy. Unfortunately, this fall, we won’t have enough energy to continue to operate the mission which will likely stop.”

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