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NASA detects the first seismic waves in the heart of Mars

(CNN) When earthquakes rocked Mars and A meteorite hit the red planet For the past four years, NASA’s InSight probe has been collecting sound waves that have helped reveal the secrets of Mars’ interior.

During these events, InSight detected seismic waves passing through the Martian core for the first time. Scientists have now used data from the rover to determine that Mars has a core of liquid iron alloys that also includes light elements such as Sulfur and oxygen as well as small amounts of hydrogen and carbon.

greater development Understanding the interior of Mars can help scientists learn more about how rocky planets like Earth and Mars formed, how the two planets differ, and what factors contribute to making other planets habitable for life.

Detailed study results were Published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“In 1906, scientists first discovered the Earth’s core by observing how seismic waves were affected by earthquakes as they passed through it,” study co-author Vedran Lekic, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a statement. . “After more than a hundred years, we are applying our knowledge of seismic waves to Mars. With InSight, we are finally discovering what lies at the center of Mars and what makes Mars so similar yet distinct from Earth.”

NASA’s Mars Insight probe has been studying the interior of Mars for four years.

The researchers analyzed how long the seismic waves generated by a March earthquake In addition to meteor impact travel through the Martian core, allowing them to estimate the core’s density and chemical composition.

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Planetary cores provide evidence of evolution

Earth has a liquid outer core and a solid inner core, but Mars’ core appears to be composed entirely of liquid. The Martian core is also much denser and smaller than scientists thought, with a radius of about 1,106 to 1,125 miles (1,780 to 1,810 kilometers).

Study co-author Nicholas Schmeier, associate professor of geology at the University of Maryland, College Park, said in a statement.

“The end result of the processes of formation and evolution can be either the generation or absence of life-sustaining conditions. The uniqueness of the Earth’s core allows it to generate a magnetic field that protects us from the solar wind, allowing us to retain water. The Martian core does not generate this protective shield, and therefore the planet’s surface conditions are hostile to life.”

Mars currently lacks a magnetic field, but traces of magnetism are still present in the Martian crust. The tracks lead scientists to believe that Mars likely once supported a habitable environment, but evolved over time into a frozen, uninhabitable wasteland.

“It’s like a puzzle in some ways,” Lekic said. “For example, there are small traces of hydrogen in the Martian core. This means that there must have been certain conditions that allowed hydrogen to exist there, and we need to understand those conditions to understand how Mars evolved into the planet it is today.”

Initially, InSight, the first mission to study the interior of Mars, had a duration of only about two years. But NASA extended the mission by two years.

“The extra mission time has certainly paid off,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Jessica Irving, senior lecturer in Earth sciences at the University of Bristol in the UK, in a connected message.

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“We have made the first ever observations of seismic waves passing through the Martian core. Two seismic signals, one from a very distant quake and the other from a meteorite impact on the far side of the planet, allowed us to probe Mars’ core with seismic waves. We have already heard the energy traveling through the core of another planet, and now we have heard it.”

The InSight mission continued to collect data on Mars until the end, Shut up in December 2022 After the dust prevented the solar panels from receiving the necessary sunlight. But the trove of data the rover has collected over its four years on Mars has changed the way scientists understand the Red Planet.

“InSight will continue to influence how we understand the formation and evolution of Mars and other planets for years to come,” Lekic said.