The InSight probe of the American aerospace agency NASA, located on the surface of Mars, was able to measure the size of the core of the Red Planet thanks to the data of the seismometer, which is included in the design of the device. Measurements showed that the radius of the core of Mars is from 1810 to 1860 km, which is about half the radius of the Earth’s core.
The data obtained indicate that the radius of the Mars core is slightly larger than scientists assumed. This could mean that the core is less dense and contains lighter elements such as oxygen in addition to iron and sulfur. The results of the study were announced by the seismologist of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich Simon Stähler as part of this week’s virtual conference Lunar and Planetary Science, and later they will be published in a specialized scientific journal.
Rocky planets like Earth and Mars are divided into fundamental layers of crust, mantle, and core. Knowing the size of each of these layers is critical in understanding how the planet formed and evolved. The data obtained from InSight will help scientists determine how Mars’ dense, metal-rich core separated from the overlying mantle as the planet cooled. The core itself is probably still molten, despite the fact that the planet originated about 4.5 billion years ago.
The stationary InSight probe, worth about $ 1 billion, has been exploring the Red Planet since 2018. It is located near the Martian equator and tracks “Marsquakes”, which are analogous to earthquakes. As well as on our planet, on Mars it is possible to “see through” seismic waves moving at different speeds through rocks of different composition and properties.
During its operation, InSight recorded about 500 Marsquakes, which indicates less seismic activity compared to the Earth. Despite this, approximately every tenth Marsquake reached a magnitude of 2 to 4, which is enough for the resulting waves to penetrate through the bowels of the planet and provide data on its internal structure. During operation, the probe records seismic waves reflected from the deep boundary between the mantle and the core.
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