The seismic moment and seismic efficiency of small impacts on Mars

N Wojcicka*, GS Collins, ID Bastow, Nicholas A Teanby, K Miljkovic, A Rajsic, I Daubar, P Lognonne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
86 Downloads (Pure)


Since landing in late 2018, the InSight lander has been recording seismic signals on the surface of Mars. Despite nominal pre-landing estimates of 1–3 meteorite impacts detected per Earth year, none have yet been identified seismically. To inform revised detectability estimates, we simulated numerically a suite of small impacts onto Martian regolith and characterized their seismic source properties. For the impactor size and velocity range most relevant for InSight, crater diameters are 1-30 m. We found that in this range scalar seismic moment is 106 − 1010 Nm and increases almost linearly with impact momentum. The ratio of horizontal to vertical seismic moment tensor components is ∼1, implying an almost isotropic P-wave source, for vertical impacts. Seismic efficiencies are ∼ 10−6, dependent on the target crushing strength and impact velocity. Our predictions of relatively low seismic efficiency and seismic moment suggest that meteorite impact detectability on Mars is lower than previously assumed. Detection chances are best for impacts forming craters of diameter >10m
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JE006540
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number10
Early online date25 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • impact
  • mars
  • seismic activity
  • InSight
  • seismic efficiency


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