NASA mission detects first seismic waves passing through Martian core | CNN

NASA's InSight Mars lander studied the interior of Mars for four years.

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When earthquakes struck Mars and meteorites slammed into the Red Planet during the past four years, NASA’s InSight lander collected sound waves that helped reveal the secrets of Mars’ interior.

During these events, InSight detected seismic waves passing through the Martian core for the first time. Now, scientists have used data from the lander to determine that Mars has a liquid iron-alloy core that also contains lighter elements such as Sulfur and oxygen, as well as small amounts of hydrogen and carbon.

more developed Understanding the interior of Mars can help scientists learn more about how rocky planets like Earth and Mars formed, how the two planets separated, and the factors that help make other planets habitable for life.

There was a study detailing the findings Published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In 1906, scientists observed Earth’s core for the first time to discover how seismic waves from earthquakes are affected by traveling through it,” study coauthor Vedran Lakic, associate professor of geology at the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a statement. “More than a hundred years later, we are applying our knowledge of seismic waves to Mars. With InSight, we’re finally finding out what’s at the center of Mars and what makes Mars so similar yet different from Earth.”

NASA's InSight Mars lander studied the interior of Mars for four years.

The researchers analyzed the seismic waves generated by a Marsquake, as well as how long meteorite impacts took to travel through the Martian core, allowing them to estimate the core’s density and chemical composition.

Earth has a liquid outer core and a solid inner core, but the Martian core appears to be made entirely of liquid. The center of Mars is also slightly denser and smaller than scientists believe, with a radius of about 1,106 to 1,125 miles (1,780 to 1,810 kilometers).

“You can think of it this way; The properties of a planet’s core can serve as a summary of how the planet formed and how it dynamically evolved over time,” study coauthor Nicholas Schmer, associate professor of geology at the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a statement.

“The end result of the processes of formation and evolution can be either the generation or the absence of life-sustaining conditions. The peculiarity of the Earth’s core allows it to produce a magnetic field that protects us from the solar wind, which allows us to hold water. The center of Mars is this does not produce a protective shield, and therefore the planet’s surface conditions are unfavorable for life.”

Mars currently lacks a magnetic field, but there are traces of magnetism in the Martian crust. These traces lead scientists to believe that Mars once supported a potentially habitable environment, but over time evolved into an essentially frozen desert.

“It’s kind of a puzzle in some ways,” Lekic said. “For example, there are small traces of hydrogen in the core of Mars. That means there must be some conditions that allow hydrogen to be there, and we have to understand those conditions to understand how Mars evolved into the planet it is today.”

Initially, the InSight mission, the first to study the interior of Mars, was to last only two years. But NASA extended the mission for two more years.

Lead author of the study, Dr. “The extra mission time has definitely paid off,” Jessica Irving said in a statement.

“We have made the first observation of seismic waves traveling through the Martian core. Two seismic signals, one from a very distant Marsquake and one from a meteorite impact on the far side of the planet, have allowed us to probe the Martian core with seismic waves. We’ve been hearing about energy effectively passing through the heart of another planet, and now we’ve heard it.”

The InSight mission continued to collect data about Mars until the very end, falling silent in December 2022 after dust blocked its solar panels from receiving the sunlight they needed. But the wealth of data collected by the lander during its four years on the Martian surface has changed the way scientists understand the Red Planet.

“INSIGHT will continue to influence how we understand the formation and evolution of Mars and other planets for years to come,” Lekic said.

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