Research Highlight

Mars is rumbling, says study

doi:10.1038/nindia.2018.136 Published online 28 October 2018

"Valles Marineris" — the region located along the Martian equator that stretches for almost a quarter of the planet’s circumference — has been found to be "recently seismo-tectonically active", a new study says.

The findings, by a team of researchers led by Senthil Kumar at the National Geophysical Research Institute in Hyderabad, answer the outstanding scientific question of whether or not the planet Mars is seismically active1.

Instrumental records of ‘marsquakes’ do not exist and therefore current seismicity of Mars is poorly known. For their study, the researchers used geomorphologic observations and high-resolution orbiter data, which revealed that Valles Marineris had an abundance of faults and landslides, and thousands of recently formed boulder falls and mud volcanoes besides several impact craters.

According to the researchers, the boulder falls observed throughout Valles Marineris must have been triggered by seismic shaking from the shallow marsquakes occurring in the past thousands of years.

In addition, the presence of many young landslides and the formation of thousands of possible mud volcanic cones all suggest marsquake-triggered shaking in the past tens to hundreds of million years, the report says.

"Therefore, Valles Marineris is plausibly one of the largest areas of recent tectonic activity on Mars, where marsquakes may occur currently," the researchers conclude.

These marsquakes, they say, could be potentially detected by InSight, NASA's first outer space robotic lander due to touch down on Mars next month (26 November 2018).


1. Senthil Kumara, P. et al. Recent seismicity in Valles Marineris, Mars: Insights from young faults, landslides, boulder falls and possible mud volcanoes. Earth Planet. Sc. Lett. (2018) doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2018.10.008