(ORDO NEWS) — It turns out Mars is louder than we thought. New methods have revealed previously unnoticed earthquakes beneath the Martian surface, and scientists say the best explanation so far is ongoing volcanic activity.
There seems to be mounting evidence that Mars is far from calm, with subsurface gurgling with seismic activity lurking beneath its dusty, barren surface.
For a long time, scientists believed that nothing special happened inside Mars.
The planet has a very weak magnetic field. Planetary magnetic fields are (usually) generated within the planet by something called a dynamo – a rotating, convective and electrically conductive fluid that converts kinetic energy into magnetic energy, spinning the magnetic field out into space.
Mars’ lack of a magnetic field suggests a lack of activity. This is a big deal; in fact, a magnetic field can mean the difference between life and death.
Here on Earth, the magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation that could destroy life. On Mars, the level of radiation is much higher, although it is further from the Sun.
But when NASA’s InSight lander arrived in November 2018 and began listening to Mars’ heartbeat, we learned something really remarkable: Mars is rumbling. To date, InSight has detected hundreds of quakes, enough to give us a detailed map of the Martian interior.
Tkalcic and his colleague, geophysicist Weijia Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, wanted to find earthquakes that might have gone unnoticed in the InSight data. They used two unconventional methods, only recently applied in geophysics, to search for seismic events in InSight data.
Based on nine patterns of known quakes, scientists have identified 47 new seismic events originating from a region on Mars called the Cerberus pits, a system of cracks created by faults that tore apart the crust.
Most of these new seismic events resemble the waveforms of the two notable Cerberus Fossae earthquakes that occurred in May and July 2019, suggesting that the smaller quakes are related to the larger ones.
The researchers then tried to find out the cause of the earthquakes. Their analysis showed that there was no pattern in the timing of the earthquakes, ruling out causes such as the influence of the Martian moon Phobos.
Previous analyzes of Martian surface features in Cerberus Fossae have shown that the region has been volcanically active recently, during the last 10 million years or so.
The activity identified by Sun and Tkalcic and attributed to repeated movements of magma in the Martian mantle also suggests that Mars is more volcanically and seismically active than we thought.
If so, the results have implications for our understanding of Mars’ history and its future.
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