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Huge ‘marsquake’ reveals secrets of possible ancient meteor strike

New research using data from a 4.7 magnitude quake on Mars has revealed that the planet may have suffered a past collision with a massive meteoroid.

The data, which was recorded by NASA’s InSight lander back in May 2022, has been analysed by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Recorded prior to the InSight lander sending its final message to Earth and eventually losing power, the quake was the largest of the 1,313 “marsquakes” that the lander detected.

Measuring in at a magnitude of 4.7, the quake was by far the largest recorded on the Red Planet, with the second largest measured at just 4.2 a year earlier.


InSight used its sensitive seismometer to detect the quake. The state-of-the-art device, provided by the French Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES), allowed scientists to a huge range of seismic data about Mars and its inner layers.

The seismometer that rode along on InSight was recording quakes since 2018, with Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator in charge of InSight at NASA’s JPL commenting on it.

“Since we set our seismometer down in December 2018, we’ve been waiting for ‘the big one,’” he said.

The quake lasted over four hours and released massive amounts of energy, with the quake releasing nearly five times more energy than any other recorded seismic event. The quake was even powerful enough to send seismic surface waves around the entirety of Mars’ circumference, which was the first time this has been observed on Mars.


The team at UCLA has spent the last six months painstakingly combing over the data and has made some incredibly interesting discoveries.

Caroline Beghein, one of the authors of the research, said the team had discovered new types of seismic waves.

“This quake generated different kinds of waves, including two types of waves trapped near the surface. Only one of those two has been observed on Mars before, after two impact events, never during a marsquake.”

Importantly, the team was able to measure differences in the speed of the waves when rocks between 10 and 25 kilometres under the surface of Mars oscillate.

“This wave speed information is related to deformations inside the crust,” Beghein said.

“Alternating volcanic rocks and sedimentary layers, which were deposited long ago, or a very large impact, such as a meteoroid, most likely account for the seismic wave measurements we observed.”



Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny

Liam McAneny is a journalist who has written and edited for his University International Relations journal. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (International Relations) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Wollongong in 2021. He joined Momentum Media in 2022 and currently writes for SpaceConnect and Australian Aviation. Liam has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations as well as astronomy.

Send Liam an email at: [email protected]

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