Primeur: InSight’s robotic seismologist reveals deep secrets of Mars

InSight’s ‘automated seismologist’ overlooks the surface of MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech image

Robotic seismologist InSight has been working on Mars since 2018, researching the tremors and tremors of the planet, called Marsquakes, which could reveal the inner state of our cosmic neighbor. Over the past two years, more than five hundred have passed under his proverbial feet.

By tracking those earthquakes closely, researchers have been able to reconstruct the planet’s interior. The speed and direction of these seismic waves depend on the material they are traveling through. Previously, this type of data was only available on Earth and the Moon.

big liquid heart

After analyzing the waves, three international research teams “See” structures that reach 800 km below the surface. The measurements also revealed that the thickness of the Martian crust is 24 to 72 kilometers Thicker than the Earth’s surface, which is only 7 kilometers under the oceans. The cortex also consists of two or three layers.

The interior of the planet is flowing as expected liquid heartWith a diameter of 1,830 km, it turned out to be slightly larger than expected. The outer edge of the liquid sphere extends up to halfway between the surface and the center of the planet.

It was discovered that under its surface Mars has only one underground rocky layer, with a thickness of 500 km, while the Earth has two layers. The core, like the Earth’s core, consists mainly of iron and nickel, and also has a somewhat lower density than previously thought.

Taken together, the findings should help reconstruct the birth of Mars billions of years ago. In the coming years, InSight will record more earthquakes, sharpening the inner view of the planet. In this way, the researchers also hope to discover what happened inside over the past billions of years.

biggest volcano

Mars still has some big mysteries, such as why the planet has the largest volcano in the solar system (Olympus Mons is now extinct), while it has few more than Earth today. By revealing the interiors of both planets in detail, one can discover where the differences come from.

Another open question is where the magnetic field of Mars went. On Earth, the coarse core acts as a kind of dynamo that generates the field, but such a field is almost absent on Mars. The possible explanation – that the once liquid core has now frozen – can indeed be eliminated with the new measurement data.

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Megan Vasquez

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