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NASA study "Insight" solves mysteries about the center of Mars

NASA study “Insight” solves mysteries about the center of Mars

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How is Mars built inside? Is its core liquid or solid? Research has been dealing with these questions for a long time. NASA helps the mission “Insight”.

Zurich – Mars’ nearest planet to Earth – yet this planet still holds many mysteries and secrets. One of these puzzles has now been solved: researchers have discovered what the interior of the red planet is. We know how the Earth is structured: it has a thin crust (solid rock), then dense earth mantle (viscous, heavy rock) and finally follows the Earth’s core, which contains iron and nickel, the outer core being liquid and the Earth’s inner core solid. But is it the same with other rocky planets?

The answer to this question was provided by the planet “Insight”, which is involved in many European organizations in addition to the US space agency NASA. “Earthquake data confirm that Mars once completely melted and is now separated from Earth by a crust, a shield and a center,” Amir Khan explained from ETH Zurich at the university communications.

Inside Mars: NASA’s “Insight” mission aids measurements

Mars “Insight” has been exploring the red planet since the end of 2019. Unlike NASA rovers like “Curiosity” or “Perseverance”, “Insight” still stands, which is a lander that implements an earthquake scale on its landing site to measure marquees. “Insight” has so far measured a total of 733 earthquakes on Mars, 35 of which were evaluated for three studies, showing how the interior of Mars is structured:

  • Tuesday Crest: It is thinner than expected and has two to three layers. If it has two layers, it is 20 km deep; If it consists of three layers, the crust extends to a depth of 37 km.
  • Mars orbit: The red planet’s mantle extends 1,560 km below and is thinner than expected.
  • Tuesday Core: The center of Mars has a radius of 1,830 km and is fluid. It was bigger than expected.
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NASA mission “Insight”: Mars core larger than expected

Science is particularly interested in the center of Mars. “This study is a unique opportunity,” said NASA Swiss researcher Simon Stoller (ETH Zurich), lead author of the Mars study. “It took scientists hundreds of years to measure the center of the earth; After the Apollo missions, it took forty years to measure the center of the moon. Insight, on the other hand, says it only takes two years to measure the center of Mars.

Surprise for researchers: The Mars core is 200 kilometers larger than expected when the “Insight” mission was planned 15 years ago. With the help of the radius, the density of the center can now be calculated: “If the center radius is large, the density of the center should be relatively small,” says Stoller. In addition to iron and nickel, the core must also have a large proportion of lighter components – for example sulfur, oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. However, their role must be unexpectedly large, leading to the conclusion that the composition of Mars is not yet fully understood, the ETH Zurich report said. However, one thing is clear now: the center of Mars – as already suspected – is liquid.

“Insight” measures earthquakes on Mars – they reveal the internal structure

In order to come to these findings, the researchers looked at markwave signals recorded “inside”. Marquees operate on waves – if the path or velocity of the waves changes, decisions can be made about the object the wave is moving on.

NASA’s “Insight” mission measures markwaves – researchers wait for a “big” earthquake

So far, only Mars between 3.0 and 4.0 has been estimated, but Mars’ seismic measurement measures new earthquakes every day. Scientists hope to detect a magnitude 4.0 earthquake before the “Insight” mission is completed. Mark Bonning, from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, emphasizes that “a major earthquake will make research easier” and is co-author of the study on Mars Crust.

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New discoveries about the internal structure of Mars will help researchers discover how rocky planets, including Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury, formed. Courses too Tuesday-Cruste, -Mondal And -Kern Have been published in the journal Science. (Thanja Banner)