Seismometer

Artist's Concept of InSight Lander on Mars
InSight is the first mission dedicated to investigating the deep interior of Mars. The findings will advance understanding of how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

Measuring the Pulse of Mars

Testing for Instrument Deployment by InSight's Arm
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.

SEIS
decorative gear graphic


Tech Specs


  • Main Job: To measure the pulse of Mars by studying waves created by marsquakes, thumps of meteorite impacts, and even surface vibrations generated by activity in Mars' atmosphere and by weather phenomena such as dust storms.
  • Location: Placed on the surface of Mars
  • Mass: 65 pounds (29.5 kilograms)
  • Power: up to 8.5 watts
  • Vacuum Chamber: About 0.8 gallons (3 liters)
  • Data Return: 38 megabits per day
image of Philippe Lognonné
Philippe Lognonné
Principal Investigator
Institute of Earth Physics of Paris, University Paris Diderot
Paris, France







"We've been waiting for this moment for a long time. It's been 130 years since the first seismic record on Earth and almost 50 years since a seismometer was placed on the Moon during the Apollo program. What we learn from SEIS will shed light on how Mars formed and evolved."

-- Philippe Lognonné
Five Things to Know
First in 40 Years
Like a Stethoscope
Listening to Meteors
Ultra-Sensitive
Sensing the Weather
InSight delivers the first seismometer to Mars in 40 years. The last time seismometers traveled to the Red Planet was with the Viking landers.
Like a doctor's stethoscope listening to the patient's heartbeat, SEIS, will “listen” for marsquakes.
Using the seismometer, scientists expect to detect 5 to 10 meteor impacts over the course of InSight’s mission.
SEIS can tune into tremors smaller than a hydrogen atom!
InSight's seismometer can sense weather phenomena, such as dust storms, that produce seismic waves.

Did You Know?

The SEIS seismometer is so sensitive, it can detect surface movements smaller than a hydrogen atom!

How It Works

SEIS will listen for seismic waves on the surface of Mars, shedding light on the interior structure of the Red Planet.

A number of physical phenomena can create seismic waves, including marsquakes, meteorites striking the surface, landslides, or even the pressure of the wind on the surface. Weather phenomena, such as dust devils, can also generate seismic waves.

Waves Change as they Travel

In the way that light changes when it passes through water or glass, seismic waves change when they pass through the interior of a planet. How the waves change depends on the material that the interior is made of. SEIS tells scientists how the interior of Mars changes waves, helping them figure out which material changed it.

Waves Tell Stories

Waves from a large quake can travel long distances and pass through many different types of material inside a planet. All of those different materials alter the wave in their own way. To understand what the inside of a planet is really like, SEIS has the ability to listen to a host of different variations in seismic waves clearly. This helps it detect lots of detail about the structure of the layers that changed the waves.

Scientists believe that areas 620 to 1,250 miles (1,000 to 2,000 kilometers) from InSight’s landing site, like the area around Elysium Mons, have experienced volcanism and quakes 1 to 10 million years ago. That’s recent for a planet! InSight's seismometer will be able to detect the plume of the volcano if seismic waves pass through it.