NASA scientists have reported an exciting detection by their Insight Lander on Mars: mysterious rumors coming from inside the planet.
Researchers believe that seismic events may be caused by a sudden release of energy from inside the planet, but the nature of this release remains unknown and puzzling.
Interestingly, the new rumors are believed to have originated in a place on Mars called Cerberus Fossae, where two other previous candidate events they are believed to have originated.
Although these rumors have sometimes been called “earthquakes,” the planet is not believed to have an active tectonic system in the same way as Earth’s that causes earthquakes.
And interestingly, the previous seismic events detected by the space agency’s InSight landing, which it reached the surface of the planet in 2018: occurred almost a full Martian year ago, or two years on Earth, during the northern Martian summer.
Scientists had predicted that this season would offer the lander the best opportunity to hear earthquakes so the winds of the planet would be calmer.
The InSight seismometer, called the Seismic Experiment for Indoor Structures (SEIS), is so sensitive that it needs to be covered by a dome-shaped shield to block it from the wind and prevent it from freezing when used.
Despite this, the wind can still cause enough vibration to mask the seismic signals it is looking for, and so the NASA team has begun trying to isolate the sensitive cable.
To do so, the team deployed the scoop at the end of InSight’s robotic arm to remove dirt from the top of the dome-shaped shield, allowing it to slide toward the cable.
The intention is to allow the ground to get as close as possible to the shield without interfering with its seal with the ground.
Burying the seismic itself is one of the goals of the next phase of the mission, which NASA recently extended two years to December 2022.
But despite the disruption the wind is causing to the InSight seismometer, it’s not giving much hand to the dust-covered lander solar panels.
Power is running out as Mars moves away from the sun, although energy levels are expected to rise after July, when the planet begins to approach the sun again.
Until then, the team will turn off InSight instruments one by one so they can hibernate, waking up only periodically to check their own health and sending a message to Earth.
NASA said the team hopes to keep the seismometer on for a month or two before it has to be turned off.