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Mars in a Minute: Are There Quakes on Mars?

March 29, 2018 • 1:00

Are there earthquakes on Mars? Or rather, “marsquakes?"

Most quakes on Earth happen due to continental plates shifting. That’s called “plate tectonics.” Mars doesn’t have plate tectonics, but other things can make the ground shake, too, like cracking caused by contraction from cooling, magma moving and creating pressure deep underground, or meteorite impacts.

Quakes of any kind send seismic waves around and through the planet. Scientists can study how those waves bounce off layers deep underground, to help understand what a planet’s interior is like. NASA’s InSight lander carries a super-sensitive instrument to measure marsquakes, and could detect dozens of them during its mission. Each one can tell us a lot about what’s going on inside that mysterious red planet–and, maybe, about how all the rocky planets came to be.

Created by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.