Marsquakes: Insights from the Martian Interior
The Discovery of Marsquakes
In 2018, NASA’s InSight lander landed a seismometer on Mars. Since then, the seismometer has recorded more than 1,300 “marsquakes,” including the strongest one ever detected on Mars. This was a magnitude 5 temblor that surpassed the previous record-holder, which was only a magnitude 4.2. The team said this event will give them new insights into the planet, which has a much more peaceful tectonic activity than Earth.
Understanding the Martian Interior
The seismometer allows geologists to remotely analyze seismic waves passing through Mars’ geological layers: the crust, mantle, and core.
The Martian Crust
The recent strongest marsquake recorded by InSight provided scientists with new data about the Red Planet’s interior. In a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers report that the average thickness of the Martian crust is between 42 and 56 kilometers, which is roughly 70% thicker than Earth’s average continental crust.
Inconsistency of the Crust
Scientists have also found inconsistencies in the Martian crust, which may explain why Mars’ northern hemisphere is substantially lower than the southern one. This finding helps scientists narrow down the explanations for this elevation difference.
Mars’ Internal Heat
The team also calculated that much of Mars’ internal heat probably originates in the crust. This discovery supports the idea that parts of Mars still have volcanic activity, contrary to a long-held belief that the Red Planet is dead.
Why Study Marsquakes?
Apart from satisfying our curiosity, studying marsquakes can help us understand the evolution of rocky planets, including Earth. Mars was once much like Earth, and understanding why they differ can help us understand how and why Earth became habitable for life. In the future, we may also find clues to the possibility of life on Mars and other planets.
What Next for InSight and Marsquakes Research?
The InSight team will continue to analyze data from the seismometer and work on extending the mission’s lifespan. However, dust accumulation on the solar panels is impeding the team’s efforts. In any case, the InSight mission has already given us invaluable data about the Martian interior, and the team is excited to make many more measurements in the future.
The study of marsquakes is a fascinating area of planetary science research. It provides scientists with invaluable data about the Martian planet’s interior, which helps us understand planetary formation better. It also widens our search for worlds beyond our own that may support life, as we continue to uncover crucial pieces of the puzzle of planet formation.
How many marsquakes has InSight recorded so far?
InSight’s seismometer has recorded more than 1,300 marsquakes since its landing on Mars in 2018.
What is the average thickness of the Martian crust?
The Martian crust’s average thickness is between 42 to 56 km, which is 70% thicker than Earth’s continental crust.
What can studying marsquakes tell us about Earth?
Mars was once much like Earth, and understanding why they differ can help us understand how and why Earth became habitable for life. Studying marsquakes can also help us understand the evolution of rocky planets like Earth.
What is the impact of the dust accumulation on InSight’s panels?
Seasonal dust accumulation on InSight’s solar panels is impeding its lifespan extension ability, and it may shorten the mission’s lifespan.
How can understanding Mars’ internal heat help us search for life beyond Earth?
The discovery of Mars’ internal heat supports the idea that parts of the planet still have volcanic activity, which widens our search for worlds beyond our own that may support life.