NASA’s InSight lander detects ‘marsquakes’ on the Red Planet

In context: If you’ve lived on this planet for longer than a couple decades, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced a natural disaster or two. Tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis are common throughout the world, but new information suggests they’re common on other planets as well: Mars, in particular.

Back in 2018, NASA’s “InSight” lander touched down on the surface of Mars, with the goal of examining the Red Planet’s interior. InSight has been in operation for around three months, and it’s already turned up some interesting results. According to reports, InSight has detected hundreds of “marsquakes”; planetary tremors that behave similarly to the ground-shaking natural phenomena we experience here on Earth.

These quakes are caused by the “long-term cooling” of Mars — as the planet cools, its crust becomes more brittle and begins to crack or even shatter. The impact of these cracks can be felt on the way on the surface.

The severity of most detected marsquakes paled in comparison to earthquakes, but about 20 tremors were “relatively significant,” The Verge claims, coming in at a magnitude of “3 or 4.” However, for the most part, even the worst quakes would not pose much of a threat to human life. “Mars is a place where we can probably say the seismic hazard is extremely low,” InSight team member Philippe Lognonne reportedly said in a press release. “At least at this time.”

That’s good news for humanity in the long term; provided our efforts to colonize the Red Planet pay off down the line. For now, though, this news is just an interesting piece of trivia that further demonstrates the many differences between Earth and our distant, significantly less hospitable cousin.