INTERNAL STRUCTURE OF MARS
Robotic Lander has made some crucial discoveries since landing on the Red Planet in 2018 — this is one of them
NASA’s robotic geophysicist, the InSight Lander has been gathering intel on the evolution of the Red Planet since its landing on the surface in November 2018. I have already written about a couple of important discoveries that it made in the last two years. The first one was the detection of magnetic pulses in 2019, followed by data earlier last year confirming that Mars was seismically active.
Using the previous data, seismologists are using marsquakes to map the red planet’s interior structure. They do this by measuring the two ways in which the seismic energy moves through the ground. This eventually enables them to calculate the depths of the planet’s core, mantle and crust. These fundamental geological layers reveal how the planet cooled over a period of billions of years ago — much like our own planet.
Although the astronomers had measured the interior structures of Earth and the Moon, they didn’t have enough information on Mars to do the same. But with Insight Lander’s new readings, this can be measured as well. According to the data, researchers have now concluded that the Martian surface is also layered — made up of either two or three layers.
“So far, the mission has detected more than 480 ‘marsquakes’… we have enough data to start answering some of these big questions.”
~ Bruce Banerdt, Principle Investigator
The current location of the Insight Lander is near the Martian equator — a smooth plain known as Elysium Planitia. The robotic lander is utilizing a sensitive seismometer to measure geological energy thrumming through the Red Planet. These readings have detected more than 480 ‘marsquakes’ so far, leading researchers to conclude that Mars is less seismically active than Earth, but more so than the moon.
More importantly, it seems that the Martian surface is also divided into sublayers of different types of rock, similar to Earth. Researchers studying the data believe InSight’s data is pointing towards two to three layers. If a three-layered crust is confirmed, it would best fit with geochemical models and studies of Martian meteorites.
Determination of two or three layers eventually would verify if the crust is either 20 or 37 kilometers thick. The thickness is likely to vary at different places around the world but is likely to be less than 70 kilometers on average. For comparison purposes, Earth’s crustal thickness varies from around 5 to 10 kilometers beneath the oceans to around 40 to 50 kilometers beneath the continents.
Astronomers are expected to report more information on the Red planet’s core and mantle, as the InSight Lander digs deeper into Mars. Complete Research work is under consideration for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.