NASA’s InSight lander arrived on Mars in 2018 to learn about its insides by watching “earthquakes,” and now the project is starting to pay off. NASA has announced that the researchers mapped the interior of the red planet and found several big surprises and significant differences from Earth.
Map – the first map of the interior of another planet. Compared to Earth, Mars has a thicker crust, a thinner layer of the mantle, and a larger, less dense, and more liquid core than expected. This, in turn, suggests that Mars may have formed millions of years before our planet, when the Sun itself was not yet fully formed.
“This gives us the first sample of the interior of another rocky planet like Earth, built from the same materials, but very, very different,” said University of Cambridge seismologist Sanne Cottaar (who was not involved in the project). Wall street journal… “It’s impressive.”
Building a map from the limited data provided by InSight was not easy. The probe recorded earthquakes in only one place and, firstly, it has only one seismometer. And on Mars, despite the seismic activity, there were no earthquakes of more than 4 points on the Richter scale.
However, by taking this data, as well as data on the planet’s magnetism and orbital fluctuations, scientists were able to create a detailed map. The innermost core of the planet was found to be about 2,275 miles in diameter, more than previously thought. Given the mass of the planet as a whole, this means that the iron-nickel core is likely to contain lighter elements such as sulfur, oxygen and carbon.
Meanwhile, the crust turned out to be very old. In addition, it was thicker in the southern highlands of Mars and thinner in the northern lowlands, which may have long ago hosted the oceans. On average, it is 15 to 45 miles thick and is divided into several layers of volcanic rock.
The mantle between the crust and core extends about 970 miles below the surface. It is thinner than Earth and has a different composition, which suggests that the two planets arose from different materials during their formation. This “could be a simple explanation for why we don’t see plate tectonics on Mars,” said ETH Zurich geophysicist and study co-author Amir Khan. The newspaper “New York Times…
The results allowed scientists to take a fresh look not only at the interior of Mars, but also at how rocky planets in general are formed. This will help them develop new theories of planetary formation, which may become especially valuable in the near future, when new instruments, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, allow astronomers to scan exoplanets around the galaxy. NASA will share more of its findings live later today…
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