NASA’s InSight colleagues deep in Mars – layered interior?

NASA’s InSight mission finally looked inside Mars and found that the planet’s crust could be three layers, according to a pre-recorded discussion that was later resumed at the December 15 virtual meeting of the American Geophysical Union and originally reported in The nature.

This marks the first time scientists have researched directly inside a planet other than Earth and will also help researchers learn how the Red Planet originally formed and evolved over the centuries.


NASA’s InSight mission reveals “cake-shaped” layers of Mars

Prior to the InSight mission, researchers had studied only the inner structures of the Earth and the moon. “Until now, this information was missing from Mars,” said Brigitte Knapmeyer-Endrun, a seismologist at the University of Cologne in Germany.

This is a major breakthrough for InSight – which landed on Mars in November 2018, in order to test the inner structure of the Red Planet.

Mars is less seismically active than Earth, more so than the moon

In writing, InSight Lander sits near the Martian equator, resting on a smooth plain called the Elysium Planitia. The lander uses an extremely sensitive seismometer to connect to the geological energy that is receding inside the planet, and so far the mission has taken over the vibrations of 480 “earthquakes,” said lead researcher Bruce Banerdt, who is also a man of science at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Mars is not as seismically active as Earth, but it beats more than the moon.

InSight data shows that Mars consists of two, three layers

Just as earthquakes do on Earth, seismologists use earthquakes to map the inner structure of the Red Planet. Because seismic energy reverberates through the ground in two types of waves, they can measure subtle differences in how they move and calculate where the core, mantle, and crust of the planet begin and end, in addition to learning the formation of each layer. .

These basic geological layers help scientists study how Mars originally cooled and formed billions of years ago – when the solar system was young. According to Banerdt, “we have enough data to start answering some of these big questions.”

The Earth’s continental crust is generally separated into substrates by different types of rocks. The researchers hypothesized that the Martian crust was similarly stratified, said Justin Filiberto, a planetary geologist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas. The nature. But new InSight data shows that the Red Planet is made up of two or three layers.

The crust of Mars is probably 12 to 23 miles thick, depending on the layers

The three-layer model fits best with geochemical models, in addition to Martian meteorites, said Julia Semprich, a planetary scientist at the Open University in the UK, for The nature.

The crust is 12.4 or 23 miles (20 or 37 km) thick, depending on whether it is made up of two or three layers, respectively, Knapmeyer-Endrun said during his discussion. This thickness probably varies in different locations around the Red Planet, but is unlikely to average more than 70 km, she added.

InSight could reveal information about the core of Mars, the mantle

Here on Earth, the thickness of our crust ranges from 5 to 10 km below the oceans and between 40 and 50 km below the continents.

Over the next few months, InSight scientists aim to report even deeper measurements from inside Mars, Banerdt said. And this could ultimately bring new information about the core and mantle of the Red Planet – opening the door to a new horizon of questions surrounding the life of the planet and the early solar system.