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Tectonics of Cerberus Fossae unveiled by marsquakes

Abstract

The InSight mission has measured the seismicity of Mars since February 2019 and has enabled the investigation of tectonics on the surface of another planet for the first time. Its dataset shows that most of the widely distributed surface faults are not seismically active, and that seismicity is mostly originating from a single population of tectonic structures, the Cerberus Fossae. We show that the spectral character of deeper low-frequency marsquakes suggests a structurally weak, potentially warm source region consistent with recent magmatic activity at depths of 30–50 km. We further show that high-frequency marsquakes occur distributed along the Cerberus Fossae, in the brittle, shallow part, potentially in fault planes associated with the graben flanks. Together, these quakes release an annual seismic moment of 1.4–5.6 × 1015 N m yr−1 or at least half the seismicity of the entire planet. Our findings confirm that the Cerberus Fossae represents a unique tectonic setting shaped by current day magmatic processes and locally elevated heat flow.

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Fig. 1: Faults around InSight.
Fig. 2: Seismicity at Cerberus Fossae.
Fig. 3: HF event localization.
Fig. 4: Spectra of marsquakes and source parameters compared to terrestrial and lunar quakes.
Fig. 5: Vertical sketch of an active part of the Cerberus Fossae viewed from the east.

Data availability

All InSight SEIS data used in this paper are available from the IPGP Data Center, IRIS-DMC and NASA PDS.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge NASA, CNES, partner agencies and institutions (UKSA, SSO, DLR, JPL, IPGP-CNRS, ETHZ, IC and MPS-MPG), and the operators of JPL, SISMOC, MSDS, IRIS-DMC and PDS for providing SEED SEIS data. S.C.S. acknowledges funding from ETH research grant ETH-10 17-3. S.C.S., G.Z. and D.G. acknowledge support from ETHZ through the ETH+ funding scheme (ETH+2 19-1: ‘Planet MARS’). Marsquake Service (MQS) operations at ETH are supported by ETH Research grant ETH-06 17-02. A.M. acknowledges support from ETH 19-2 FEL-34 and the Harvard Daly Postdoctoral Fellowship. C.P. acknowledges support from CNES as well as Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-14-CE36-0012-02 and ANR-19-CE31-0008-08). W.B.B. was supported by the NASA InSight mission and funds from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (80NM0018D0004). This is InSight contribution 233.

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S.C.S. designed the study with contributions from all authors. A.M. and C.P. led the geological context analysis. S.C.S., T.K. and P.L. analysed the waveform spectra. M.K. and S.C.S. analysed the seismic moment release. J.C., S.C.S. and D.G reviewed the MQS analysis on event distances. G.Z., J.C. and S.C.S. analysed LF event back azimuths. D.K. added the analysis of the HF event back azimuth. D.G., P.L. and W.B.B. designed the InSight seismic experiment. S.C.S. and A.M. wrote the paper with help from all authors.

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Correspondence to Simon C. Stähler.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 Global fault map.

Global map of faults color-coded by minimum age1,2,76. The darkened area marks the core shadow18, in which no direct body waves can be observed as seen from InSight. Thus event detection is significantly more difficult.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Realignment of HF marsquake arrival times.

(A) Average three-component envelopes aligned on Pg-arrival (t = 0 s) from a total of 62 marsquakes from the HF event category, and the corresponding (B) vertical component waveforms. All MQS events with the event quality C or above are selected between Sols 128 and 105014 but those with low envelope similarity (that is, correlation coefficient < 0.8 against the mean envelope of all HF event data) are removed. (C) Comparison of the MQS vs. relocated distance estimates with vPg=4 km/s and vPg/vSg=\(\sqrt{3}\), including standard deviation.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Backazimuth estimation from radial vs transverse energy.

Median power ratio between radial and transverse components of the HF waveforms (A) before, and (B) after applying the re-alignment using average spectral envelopes. (C) Same as (B) but using a subgroup of HF events that clustered tightly at the mean relocated distance of 24. Background power which is strongly affected by wind noise and lander resonances is removed.

Extended Data Fig. 4 Probability of moment rate and corner magnitude in Cerberus Fossae.

Emission probability of moment rate and corner moment taking into account the 10 largest events observed over the mission until 2021-12-31, using the KS10 estimator of35, in the same style as figs. 4, 7 therein. For orientation, the moment release of the whole moon, as seen by the Apollo seismic network over 7 years of operation46 (green) and the moment rates estimated by25 for Cerberus Fossae (grey) are shown, as well as 2 global estimates from1 (Many weak faults and the medium model).

Extended Data Fig. 5 Probability distribution of annual moment rate.

Distribution of annual moment release rate \(\dot{M}\) resulting from the emission probability in Extended Data Figure 4.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Spectral fit of marsquake S0173a.

Spectral fitting example: Event S0173a, after correction for Qμ (eq. (6), (7)). Top: The value of Qμ = 1000 has been chosen to make P and S-wave spectra match. Each spectrum was computed in a time window of 30 second length around the arrival using a multitaper method82. The S-wave and P-wave amplitude spectra meet the pre-event noise at 1.1 Hz. For easier comparison, the noise spectra are plotted 3 times: (i) raw, and using the correction terms for (ii) P- and (iii) S-waves. Bottom: Ratio of P- and S-wave spectrum. The colored part highlights the frequency range in which both P- and S-wave are above noise. The black line marks a theoretical spectrum (eq. (3)) with fc = 0.5 Hz and n = 2.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Spectral fit of marsquake S0173a with different attenuation model.

Event S0173a, with the attenuation model of11. The value of Qμ = 400 leads to a significant over-prediction of the S-wave amplitude above 0.5 Hz.

Extended Data Fig. 8 Test for Poissonian distribution of marsquakes.

Cumulative count of events (left), and lag time distribution (right). For a stationary Poisson process, the cumulative count as function of time should follow a straight line in linear coordinates. The event rate defines the slope of this line. For the first year of operation (cycle 1, blue), we corrected the count after the three weeks down time in August/September 2019 by assuming that the rate during the down time equalled that afterwards. After Sol 400, increasing wind speeds at night made detection impossible until the second Martian year, starting around Sol 700. For the second year (cycle 2), no such correction was necessary. Pale lines indicate the nominal slope (cycle 1: 0.021 ± 0.007 events/sol, cycle 2: 0.053 ± 0.02 events/sol) and the 95% confidence intervals for likely scatter. The event series end with the end of the catalog (MQS v9). The lag times of a stationary Poisson process are exponentially distributed and thus follow a straight line in a semi-logarithmic plot. Lag times shorter than 1 sol were not considered; the daily noise regime makes them unreliable. All confidence were intervals estimated numerically from 1e5 synthetic event sequences with the same rate and covering the same duration.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–12.

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Stähler, S.C., Mittelholz, A., Perrin, C. et al. Tectonics of Cerberus Fossae unveiled by marsquakes. Nat Astron 6, 1376–1386 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-022-01803-y

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