(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s InSight mission was able to look inside Mars and discovered that the planet’s crust may consist of three layers. For the first time, scientists have directly investigated the interior of a planet other than Earth, which could help understand how Mars formed and evolved over time.
The InSight lander landed on the surface of Mars in November 2018 in order to find out the inner structure of the planet. The landing took place near the Martian equator on a smooth plain known as Elysium Planitia. During the study, an extremely sensitive seismometer was used to record the geological activity of the planet.
According to Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s chief investigator and scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the mission has detected more than 480 “Marsquakes” to date. It turned out that Mars is less seismically active than the Earth, but to a greater extent than the Moon.
All earthquakes have two sets of body waves that travel through the interior of the planet: primary waves (P-waves) and secondary waves (S-waves). They also sway along the top of the earth’s crust as part of a third category called surface waves.
On Earth, seismologists use surface waves to learn more about the inner structure of the planet. Before reaching Mars, InSight seismologists expected that these waves would provide an opportunity to look about 400 kilometers below the surface of the Red Planet. But Mars continues to be a mystery: despite hundreds of earthquakes, none of them had surface waves.
Nevertheless, the available data was sufficient to calculate some data on the planet’s crust.
Scientists previously suspected that the Martian crust was composed of several layers, but there was not enough accurate data to state this. Scientists have now found that the three-layer structure best matches geochemical models and data on Martian meteorites.
Depending on whether there are 2 or 3 layers in the crust, its thickness is 20 or 37 kilometers. It varies from place to place and does not exactly exceed 70 km. For comparison, on Earth, the crust is 5-10 km thick under the ocean, and 40-50 km under the continents.
In the future, scientists plan to continue analyzing InSight data and obtain information about the core and mantle of Mars. In addition, they expect that the HP3 heat probe, which has the unofficial name “Mole”, will be able to plunge into the depths of the planet’s bowels to take temperature measurements using the probe’s sensors and radiometers. So far, he managed to bury himself in the ground by only a few centimeters instead of the planned 70 centimeters.
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