'Marsquake' detected for first time, Nasa says

Nick Allen

Nasa has detected a probable "Marsquake" for the first time.

The suspected seismic event on the Red Planet was recorded using silicon sensors developed in the UK.

A dome-shaped apparatus known as Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure [SEIS] landed on Mars last year equipped with the sensors, which were built with £4 million in funding from the UK Space Agency

Nasa said the measuring of the quake, which occurred on April 6, marked the "birth of a new discipline - Martian seismology".

Chris Skidmore, the science minister, said it was a "testament to the UK’s world leading science and engineering space sector".

Professor Tom Pike of Imperial College London, leading the UK contribution, said: "This is what we were all waiting for, the first quivering of the planet picked up by our sensors. Our first investigation of the interior of another planet is now underway."

Mars is not nearly as geologically active as Earth and, like our moon, lacks tectonic plates.

An image of the Martian surface from Nasa's Curiosity Rover Credit: EPA

But thousands of "moonquakes" were detected on the lunar surface between 1969 and 1977 using equipment installed there by Nasa's Apollo missions.

The French space agency Cnes, which operates SEIS, said there had been a "weak but distinct seismic signal" on Mars which could shed light on the ancient origins of Earth's neighbour.

It added: "We've waited for our first Martian quake for months."

The tremor was so faint that an earthquake of the same magnitude in southern California would be virtually lost among the dozens of tiny seismological events that occur there every day, Nasa said.