NASA’s InSight Consent arrived on Mars in 2018 to learn more about its interior by following the “market”, and now the project is starting to really pay off. NASA did announced that researchers have mapped the interior of the red planet and discovered some big surprises and big differences with the Earth.
The map is the first in the interior of another planet. Compared to Earth, Mars has a thicker crust, a thinner mantle layer, and a larger, less dense, and more fluid 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.
“It gives us the first sample of the interior of another rocky planet like Earth, built of the same materials but very, very different,” said Cambridge University seismologist Sanne Cottaar (who was not involved in the project) Wall Street Journal. “It’s impressive.”
Constructing a map based on the limited data provided by InSight was by no means easy. The probe recorded earthquakes from only one location and has only one seismometer. And Mars – while seismically active – he did not have any earthquake greater than about 4 on the Richter scale.
However, taking this data, together with the magnetism of the planet and the oscillation of the orbits, the scientists managed to create a detailed map. The planet’s inner core has been found to be about 2,275 miles in diameter, larger than previously thought. Given the mass of the planet as a whole, this implies that the core of iron / nickel probably contains lighter elements such as sulfur, oxygen and carbon.
In the meantime, the bark has been found to be very old. It was also denser in the southern mountains of Mars and thinner in the northern lowlands, which may have long ago hosted the oceans. It is on average between 15 and 45 miles thick and is divided into several layers of volcanic rock.
The mantle between the crust and the core extends approximately 970 miles below the surface. It is thinner than Earth and has a different composition which suggests that the two planets formed from different materials when they formed. This “could be a simple explanation for why we don’t see plate tectonics on Mars,” Amir Khan, a geophysicist and co-author of the ETH Zurich study, told New York Times.
The results gave scientists a new insight not only into the interior of Mars, but also how rocky planets form in general. This will help them develop new theories about the creation of planets that could become especially valuable in the near future, when new instruments such as the James Webb Space Telescope will allow astronomers to scan exoplanets around the galaxy. NASA will reveal more about its findings in the live event later today.
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