NASA’s InSight Mission looks inside the MARS

This week has been a very informative week regarding MARS. NASA’s two missions at mars have been proving to be very useful. Insight lander is a robotic lander parked at the MARS surface to study the deep composition of the planet.  Insight lander has been observing and recording seismic data of the marsquakes revealing details about its internal composition. Insight basically consists of a seismometer to measure seismic activities and a heat probe to measure heat flow to study Mars’s planetary evolution.   

The Mars InSight lander’s seismometer consists of a protective dome that contains three extremely sensitive sensors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Three papers based on the data collected by seismometer, published in Science on 22 July 2021 reveal the size and composition of the crust, mantle and core of the Mars. This was the result expected by NASA while designing this mission, says insight’s principal investigator Bruce Banerdt. Just like earth, Mars also heated up upon formation from dust and meteoritic material orbiting the sun. Over the millions of years of time differentiation of three distinct layers happened. These three layers are namely, crust, mantle and core.

Each of the paper published in Science explained one layers. Insight lander’s mission was to find the depth, composition of these layers. The most astonishing fact revealed in this discovery is confirmation of molten core of the Mars unlike earth’s core. Mars’s core is molten and astonishingly large in size. Radius of the core is calculated as 1830km. Above the core is 1560km deep mantle layer. The top layer i.e crust is found to be thinner than expected, around 37 kilometers containing three sublayers.

Earthquakes on earth are caused due to the shifting of tectonic plates, bur mars doesn’t have tectonic plates. Its crust consists of one large tectonic plate, but due to the stresses caused by shrinking of planet as it continues to cool down causes rock fractures causing marsquakes.

Insight’s seismogram recorded all the tinniest wiggles which can represent a marsquake, as it is extremely difficult to record a marsquake due to its small magnitude. Surprisingly, most of the quakes come from one active volcanic site, but no wiggles have been recorded from more prominent volcanic regions. Or maybe insight lander couldn’t detect them.

Scientists believe that these results are just the beginning. They are expecting and waiting to record a quake bigger than 4.00, that will help refining the models of mars and its formation. “There are still multiple open questions that we’d like to answer with the help of seismographic data. For example, which geologic/tectonic features are the observed marsquakes linked to? At which depth do olivine phase transitions occur in the mantle? And Is there a solid inner core, like on Earth, or is the whole core of Mars liquid?” says the geophysicist who contributed to this research.

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The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of Asian Science Letters or its Editors. Information contained in our published works have been obtained by Asian Science Letters from authors believed to be reliable in their field.

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