The biggest Marsquake was 5 times larger than previous record holder

New research publishes first data on the Red Planet’s magnitude 4.7 quake that occurred earlier this year.

14 December 2022

Joint Release

The domed seismometer on NASA’s InSight Rover measured Mars’s largest quake. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

AGU press contact:
Rebecca Dzombak, [email protected] (UTC-5 hours)

Press contacts for the researchers:
Taichi Kawamura, Université Paris Cité, Institut de physique du globe de Paris,  [email protected] (UTC+1 hours)
John Clinton, ETH Zurich, [email protected] (UTC+1 hours)

Institutional press contacts:
IPGP Media Officer:   Emmelyne Mitard, [email protected]
JPL Media officer: Andrew Good, [email protected]
CNES Media officer:  Claire Dramas, [email protected]
UCLA Media Officer:  Holly Ober, [email protected]
ETHZ Media officer Marianne Lucien, [email protected]

WASHINGTON — Late on the Earth night of May 4, or Sol 1222 on Mars, the seismometer aboard NASA’s InSight Mars Lander detected a quake on the Red Planet, with reverberations lasting many hours. The Marsquake was at least five times as large as the next largest quake recorded on the planet, according to new research published Wednesday in Geophysical Research Letters, an AGU journal. Additional research related to the record Marsquake are also being presented this week at AGU’s Fall Meeting, in Chicago from 12 to 16 December and online everywhere.

“This was definitely the biggest Marsquake that we have seen,” said Taichi Kawamura, lead author and planetary scientist at the Institut de physique du globe de Paris, France. Kawamura is co-leader, along with co-author and seismologist John Clinton at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, of the Marsquake service (MQS), an international team that monitors and evaluates the seismological data recorded by the NASA InSight Mars Lander.

“The energy released by this single marsquake is equivalent to the cumulative energy from all other Marsquakes we’ve seen so far, and although the event was over 2000 kilometers (1200 miles) distant, the waves recorded at InSight were so large they almost saturated our seismometer,” said Clinton.

Seismology on Mars can give scientists a better idea about what lies under the planet’s surface — including water — and how its crust and deep interior are structured. Like on Earth, most detected Marsquakes are thought to occur due to fault movements.

The previous biggest Marsquake, recorded in August 2021 (Sol 976 on Mars), was around a magnitude of 4.2, while the May quake had a magnitude of 4.7. (Marsquake magnitudes are comparable to those of earthquakes.)

“For the first time we were able to identify surface waves, moving along the crust and upper mantle, that have travelled around the planet multiple times,” Clinton noted.

This paper is accompanied by two additional papers, also published Wednesday in Geophysical Research Letters, which cover the quake’s surface wave paths and velocities.

The waves from the record-breaking quake lasted about 10 hours — quite a while, considering no previous Marsquakes exceeded an hour.

It was also curious because the epicenter was close to but outside the Cerberus Fossae region, which is the most seismically active region on the Red Planet. The epicenter did not appear to be obviously related to known geologic features, although a deep epicenter could be related to hidden features lower in the crust.

Marsquakes are often divided into two different types — those with high-frequency waves characterized by rapid but shorter vibrations, and those of low-frequency, when the surface moves slowly but with larger amplitude. This recent seismic event is rare in that it exhibited characteristics of both high- and low-frequency quakes. Further research might reveal that previously recorded low- and high-frequency quakes are merely two aspects of the same thing, Kawamura said.

The new research is the first to describe and analyze the data from this large quake, which were released by the Mars Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) data service, NASA Planetary Data System (PDS) and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), together with the MQS catalog, in early October.

InSight is thought to be near its operational end because dust has progressively covered its solar panels and reduced its power during the four years since its landing in November 2018. “We are impressed that almost at the end of the extended mission, we had this very remarkable event,” Kawamura said. Based on the data gathered from this quake, “I would say this mission was an extraordinary success,” he continued.

Kawamura said this publication is the first of a number of papers, both from his team and from partners, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ETH Zurich, France’s National Centre for Space Studies and UCLA that will be published in AGU’s special collection on the event.

Just as seismological research helps geologists learn about the evolution of Earth, this kind of data can help planetary scientists understand more about the evolution of the Red Planet, Kawamura said.

“Stay tuned for more exciting stuff following this,” Kawamura said.


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Notes for journalists

Paper title:
“S1222a – the largest Marsquake detected by InSight”

This paper is published with free access. Download a pdf of this study here.


  • Taichi Kawamura (corresponding author), Matthieu Plasman, Grégory Sainton, Philippe Lognonné, Université Paris Cité, Institute de globe de Paris, CNRS, Paris, France
  • John Clinton (corresponding author), Swiss Seismological Service, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Géraldine Zenhäusern, Savas Ceylan, Nikolaj L. Dahmen, Cecilia Duran, Doyeon Kim, Simon C. Stähler, Fabian Euchner, Domenico Giardini, Institute of Geophysics, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Anna C. Horleston, School of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  • Constantinos Charalambous, Imperial College London, London, UK
  • Paul Davis, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • Mark Panning, William B. Banerdt, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA

Related papers:

Crustal Anisotropy in the Martian Lowlands from Surface Waves – Beghein et al. GRL

“Different Martian Crustal Seismic velocities across the Dichotomy Boundary from Multi-Orbiting Surface Waves” – Li et. al GRL

Related abstracts at Fall Meeting 2022:

Over two dozen additional papers focused on this Marsquake are planned for an AGU Special Collection in Geophysical Research Letters and the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

DI45B Locating the largest event observed on Mars with multi-orbit surface waves
Thursday, 15 December
Poster session begins at 2:45 p.m. CT
McCormick Place – Poster Hall A

DI45B-0023 New constraints on the Martian crustal structure and seismic anisotropy near the dichotomy revealed by the largest Marsquake ever recorded
Thursday, 15 December
Poster session begins at 2:45 p.m. CT
McCormick Place – Poster Hall A

DI45B-0027 The seismicity of Mars in 1300 sols as recorded by InSight’s Marsquake Service
Thursday, 15 December
Poster session begins at 2:45 p.m. CT
McCormick Place – Poster Hall A

EP55C-0811 Discussion on seismically triggered avalanches on Mars
Friday, 16 December
Poster session begins at 2:45 p.m. CT
McCormick Place – Poster Hall A