InSight Rover has started measuring Marsquakes

InSight Rover has started measuring Marsquakes 1
NASA's InSight lander deployed its Wind and Thermal Shield that covers the seismometer, helping it take accurate readings. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

InSight Rover, the latest rover sent by NASA to Mars has already started sending back images and seismic readings. Yesterday, the rover has placed a shield over the seismometer to increase the accuracy of the readings.

The primary mission of the InSight rover is to measure quakes (marsquakes) emanating from the Mars’ interior or caused by external factors like meteors etc. The shield increases the accuracy by protecting the sensitive sensor on the seismometer by protecting it from the Martian wind and other external factors. While the SEIS has inbuilt correcting mechanisms for such external factors, the shield provides an additional layer of protection.

“Temperature is one of our biggest bugaboos,”
InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt

The shield also protects the supersensitive seismometer, called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS), from massive temperature fluctuation on Mars which could expand and contract the components of the seismometer enough to make the data inaccurate, or worse unusable.

The shield is necessary as the seismometers can’t be buried under the surface on Mars, which the technique used on Earth to protect against these factors.

The SEIS is heavily protected and is placed under a vacuum-sealed titanium sphere, yet the shield has been designed and deployed to provide multiple layers of security and ensure accurate readings.

InSight Rover 

Cut-away of the SEIS instrument, showing the structure of the Remote Warm Electronic Box (© IPGP/David Ducros).
The SIES instrument cut-away
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/IPGP/David Ducros

Overall, the SEIS siesmometers are protected by five-pronged mechanism

  1. SEIS is designed to correct for external factors
  2. The instrument is vacuum-sealed in a titanium sphere
  3. The titanium sphere is then enclosed in an insulating container
  4. The walls of the insulating container are honeycombed with cells that trap air and stops it from affecting the readings
  5. The dome shape wind and thermal sheild that protects the seismometer from wind and temperature variances

With the seismometer firmly in place, the InSight team will now move on to the secondary mission, deployment of a heat probe named Heat Flor and Physical Properties Package (HP3) which is designed to measure the heat flow beneath the surface of Mars.

The researchers are hoping that these readings will enabled them to study planetary geoformation and eventually help them understand planetary evolution or even how Earth was formed.

Source: NASA/JPL

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