WASHINGTON            -          Things go bump on Mars on a fairly regular basis. That’s the conclusion of a year of listening for quake signals on the planet by the InSight lander.

The US space agency-led probe has detected over 450 significant seismic events since touching down in 2018.

None are particularly big - at most, they’re only 3 to 4 on the magnitude scale, which you might feel if you were standing directly above the tremors. The quakes’ size and frequency is actually not that dissimilar to the UK.

The important message though to take away from the first detailed reports on the progress of the InSight mission is that Mars is far from being a dull, dead planet; it’s an active one, says principal investigator Bruce Banerdt.

He told reporters: “We finally for the first time have established that Mars is a seismically active planet and that the seismic activity is greater than that of the Moon, which was measured back during the Apollo programme, but less than that of the Earth (as a whole).

“In fact, it’s probably close to the kinds of seismic activity you would expect to find away from the plate boundaries on the Earth and away from highly deformed areas.”

That’s pretty much the quake picture in Britain “give or take a factor of two”, added Tom Pike from Imperial College London. A magnitude 4 event in the UK will occur on average roughly every two years.

InSight arrived on Mars on 26 November 2018, touching down in an equatorial region of the planet known as Elysium Planitia. It settled in a small crater that has been informally named Homestead Hollow.