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"Seismometer deployment is as important as landing InSight on Mars," said InSight Principal Investigator Bruce Banerdt, also based at JPL. "The seismometer is the highest-priority instrument on InSight: We need it in order to complete about three-quarters of our science objectives."
The seismometer allows scientists to peer into the Martian interior by studying ground motion - also known as marsquakes. Each marsquake acts as a kind of flashbulb that illuminates the structure of the planet's interior. By analyzing how seismic waves pass through the layers of the planet, scientists can deduce the depth and composition of these layers.
InSight’s seismometer, SEIS, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, is a round, dome-shaped instrument that sits on the Martian surface and takes the "pulse" or seismic vibrations of Mars. Its measurements provide a glimpse into the planet’s internal activity. The seismometer waits patiently to sense the pulse, or seismic waves, from marsquakes, and thumps of meteorite impacts. A suite of wind, pressure, temperature, and magnetic field sensors help fine-tune the seismometer's measurements. This helps it sense surface vibrations generated by weather systems such as dust storms, or by turbulence in the atmosphere due to phenomena such as dust devils, which can also generate seismic waves. SEIS measurements tell scientists about the nature of the material that first formed the rocky planets of the Solar System. As it reveals what lies beneath, the seismometer may even be able to tell us if there's liquid water, or plumes of active volcanoes underneath the Martian surface.