Podcaster: Beth Johnson, Franck Marchis, and Simon Steel (alternate hosts); Guest: Dr. Benjamin Fernando

Title: SETI Live – “The Big One”: The Most Powerful Marsquake Ever Detected

Organization: SETI Institute



Recorded 16 November 2023.

On Earth, we understand how and where earthquakes happen due to the discovery of plate tectonics – the continental crust’s creation, movement, and destruction. However, when astronauts placed seismometers on the lunar surface during NASA’s Apollo mission era, those instruments recorded quakes on the Moon. 

In the 1970s, the Viking landers also recorded quakes on the surface of Mars. Since neither of these worlds has plate tectonics, scientists set about collecting more data to understand the phenomena, which led to the recent NASA InSight lander. 

Now, a new paper in Geophysical Research Letters explains how the largest recorded seismic event on Mars provided evidence for a different sort of tectonic origin — the release of stress within the Martian crust.

Join communications specialist Beth Johnson as she talks to lead author Dr. Benjamin Fernando about the results of an amazing international collaboration that led to this new discovery. 

Bio: Beth Johnson is a communications specialist and social media manager with a degree in physics and master’s work in planetary science. She specializes in meteor showers, icy moons, and anything with volcanoes.

Franck Marchis is a senior planetary astronomer and chair of the exoplanet group at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute and Chief Scientific Officer and Founder at Unistellar. He has dedicated his work to the study of our solar system, specifically the search for asteroids with moons, using mainly ground-based telescopes equipped with adaptive optics.

Simon Steel is Deputy Director of the Carl Sagan Center for Research at the SETI Institute. As an observational astrophysicist, he specialized in optical spectrophotometry, with an interest in the star formation histories of galaxies.

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