Mars exploration: US space agency NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) has shared more details about the mantle, crust, and molten core of the neighbouring Red Planet in three separate papers. The details were gathered with the help of NASA’s stationary lander InSight, which had landed on Mars in 2018 with a seismometer that hoped to gather the first insights into the deep interior of the planet. Now, the papers, published in Science journal, have provided details regarding the depth as well as the composition of the core, mantle and crust of the Red Planet. The agency has also confirmed that the centre of Mars is molten. However, in Earth, the outer core is molten, while the inner core is solid and the scientists are continuing to look through the data provided by InSight to determine if the same holds true for the Red Planet.
In a statement, the space agency said that Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure or the SEIS is the name of the seismometer aboard InSight, and it has recorded 733 distinct instances of marsquakes. Of these, 35 were within the magnitude of 3.0 and 4.0 and these provided the data used for these three papers. In fact, the seismometer is ultrasensitive and lets scientists “listen” to the seismic activity from hundreds or thousands of miles away.
The speed and shape of seismic waves vary when they travel through different materials within a planet, and it is these variations that have allowed scientists to understand the inner structure of Mars. With this information, they hope to get a deeper insight into the formation of all rocky planets, including Earth.
Much like the Earth, the Red Planet also formed from dust and larger meteoritic clumps, and over millions of years, Mars got the three distinguishable layers in a process that scientists call differentiation. InSight aimed to determine the depth, size as well as structure of all of these layers. The three papers focus on each of these layers.
Using the data from InSight, scientists determined the crust of Mars is thinner than their expectations and consists of two or even three sub-layers. They have said that the crust is 12 miles or 20 km deep if it consists of two sub-layers, but in case it also has a third sub-layer, then it is 23 miles or 37 km deep.
Then is the mantle, which scientists have estimated to extend 969 miles or 1,560 km below the surface. Last, at the centre of Mars is the core, having a radius of 1,137 miles or 1,830 km.
The statement added that these findings were only the beginning and now, the team is awaiting a marsquake having a magnitude higher than 4.0 since they still need seismic data for more understanding and having a bigger seismic activity would make it easier.