'The big one': Monster quake on Mars to provide view into planet like no other

NASA's InSight Mars lander detected a magnitude 5 temblor on May 4.

Since landing a seismometer on Mars in 2018, scientists have been waiting for a big quake, and now researchers say they've finally recorded a monster one.  

NASA's InSight Mars lander detected a magnitude 5 temblor on May 4.

During its few short years on the Martian planet, InSight's seismometer has detected more than 1,300 quakes. 

"Since we set our seismometer down in December 2018, we've been waiting for 'the big one,'" said Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which leads the mission.

A magnitude 5 quake is a medium-size event compared to earthquakes felt on Earth.

Andrew Good also with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that there are similarities with the quakes felt on both Mars and Earth.

"The magnitude scale we use for Mars is calibrated to be as equivalent as possible to the seismic movement between Earth and Mars," Good said.

Good and his team says that this is close to what they hoped to see on Mars during Insight's mission.


The highly sensitive seismometer was taken to study the planet's deep interior.

Scientists say the seismic waves pass through or reflect material in Mars' crust, mantle, and core. They change in ways that seismologists can study to determine the depth and composition of these layers. Doing so will help them better understand the formation of all rocky worlds.

"This quake is sure to provide a view into the planet like no other. Scientists will be analyzing this data to learn new things about Mars for years to come," Banerdt said.

Even though InSight's mission was extended until the end of the year, NASA says that it is unlikely to continue operations through the extension because of dust accumulation on its solar panels.

Mars is the only planet besides Earth, where NASA has an active seismometer recording quakes.