Three studies published in this week’s issue of the journal Science bring the first compilation of seismic observations of Mars, made by NASA’s InSight spacecraft. These studies are the first to map the interior of a planet beyond Earth.
NASA’s InSight spacecraft (planted on Mars in 2018) spent two years researching that structure and all the invisible entrails of ‘the land of aliens’.
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A month after arriving there, he used his robotic arm to install a very small seismometer on the surface and pick up marsquakes (seismic vibrations within the planet, just like earthquakes on Earth).
“Unlike Earth, Mars’ mysterious interior has no plate tectonics; its crust is like a giant plate,” wrote NASA researchers. “But faults, or rock fractures, still form in the crust due to stresses caused by the planet’s slight shrinkage as it cools,” they said.
Fractures tend to result in seismic vibrations, and in just the last two years, the space probe has detected 733 of them. Using high-tech equipment, the researchers calculated the speed and distance at which the waves travel within the planet. Therefore, they mapped the structures of the interior of Mars.
What is the interior of Mars made up of?
Mars is composed of three layers: crust, mantle and core, but the compositions and sizes of these layers are different compared to Earth’s. The crust, for example, is 20 to 37 kilometers deep, thinner than researchers thought, and contains two or three sublayers.
Still in the interior of Mars, below the crust is the mantle, which extends a considerable 1,560 kilometers below the surface. Soon after, the gigantic nucleus gives a sign of life, it starts halfway between the surface and the center of the Martian planet.
Scientists cannot pinpoint whether Mars has a solid inner core, but the information gleaned from ‘little study time’ is quite an achievement. “Scientists took hundreds of years to measure the Earth’s core. In other words, we are at the front,” said Simon Stähler, lead author of one of the new articles and professor of earth sciences at the Swiss research university ETH Zurich. “After the Apollo missions, it took them 40 years to measure the moon’s core. It took InSight just two years to measure the core of Mars,” he concluded.
Certainly many more discoveries will be made about the interior of Mars, in the meantime, each advance is important for us to understand the grandeur of the universe!
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