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Planetary science: InSights from Mars

Nature Geoscience

February 25, 2020

Results from the NASA InSight lander’s first 10 months on Mars are presented in a suite of papers published in Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications . The papers show that Mars is seismically active and reveal information about its interior and complex atmosphere, magnetic field and geology.

The InSight lander arrived on Mars on 26 November 2018, touching down in the Elysium Planitia region in a small filled crater informally named Homestead hollow. InSight aims to examine the interior structure and composition of Mars, which could help our understanding of the complex processes that have shaped the planet.

In an overview paper in Nature Geoscience, W. Bruce Banerdt, Suzanne Smrekar and colleagues highlight some of the key findings from the mission’s first year on Mars. These include the first unambiguous detection of marsquakes, including over 20 events of magnitude 3 to 4.

The seismic activity of Mars is explored in more detail in two papers by Domenico Giardini and colleagues and Philippe Lognonne and colleagues. As of 30 September 2019, InSight has detected 174 seismic events on Mars, 24 of which are relatively large in magnitude and from distant sources. The location of two of the larger marsquakes could be pinpointed to the Cerberus Fossae region, which shows evidence of recent volcanic and tectonic activity.

Further papers published in Nature Geoscience, as part of the package, reveal atmospheric phenomena including gravity waves and infrasound on the planet and suggest a local magnetic field at the landing site that is 10-times stronger than anticipated. An additional study in Nature Communications describes the surface geology and shallow subsurface structure of the landing site.

With the InSight mission expected to continue for another Earth year, further measurements should build on these initial results and reveal new discoveries and findings about Mars.

doi: 10.1038/s41561-020-0544-y

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