Magma rocks Mars tremors on the Red Planet

Animation showing an artistic interpretation of the interior structure of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

" data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">Nasait is " data-gt-translate-attributes="[{" attribute="">March Inner exploration using seismic, geodetic and heat transport (InSight) surveys was launched in May 2018 and landed safely on the Martian surface in November of the same year. His two-year mission was to study the deep interior of Mars to learn how celestial bodies on rocky surfaces, such as the Earth and the Moon, formed. It recently recorded a record-breaking monster earthquake on Mars, but unfortunately it’s nearly extinct for InSight.

One of InSight’s main tools for this mission is the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS). This round domed instrument picks up seismic “pulses” or vibrations from Mars. Using SEIS data, scientists have made a new discovery about the March tremors.

According to scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) suggest.

New research published in Nature Communication shows that scientists from the ANU and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have discovered 47 previously undetected marsquakes beneath the Martian crust in an area called Cerberus Fossae – a seismically active region on Mars that has less than 20 million of years.

“It may help us answer fundamental questions about the solar system and the state of Mars’ core and mantle and the evolution of its currently missing magnetic field.”

The study authors speculate that magma activity in the Martian mantle, which is the inner layer of Mars sandwiched between the crust and the core, is the cause of these newly detected Mars quakes.

The findings suggest that magma in the Martian mantle is still active and is responsible for volcanic earthquakes, contrary to past beliefs by scientists that these events are caused by Martian tectonic forces.

According to geophysicist and co-author Professor Hrvoje Tkalcic of the ANU School of Earth Science Research, the repetitive nature of these earthquakes and the fact that they were all detected in the same area of ​​the planet suggest that Mars is more seismically active than scientists previously thought. .

“We found that these marsquakes occur repeatedly at any time during the Martian day, whereas marsquakes detected and reported by NASA in the past appeared to have occurred only in the middle of the night. , when the planet is calmer,” Professor Tkalcic said.

“Therefore, we can assume that the movement of molten rock in the Martian mantle is the trigger for these 47 newly detected earthquakes beneath the Cerberus Fossae region.”

Professor Tkalcic said continued seismicity suggests the Cerberus Fossae region on Mars is “seismically very active”.

“Knowing that the Martian mantle is still active is crucial to our understanding of Mars’ evolution as a planet,” he said.

“It may help us answer fundamental questions about the solar system and the state of Mars’ core and mantle and the evolution of its currently missing magnetic field.”

The researchers used data collected from a seismometer attached to NASA’s InSight lander, which has been collecting data on earthquakes, Martian weather and the planet’s interior since it landed on Mars in 2018. .

Using a unique algorithm, the researchers were able to apply their techniques to NASA data to detect all 47 previously undiscovered earthquakes.

The study authors say that while the earthquakes would have caused tremors on Mars, the seismic events were relatively small in magnitude and would barely have been felt if they had happened on Earth. The earthquakes were detected over a period of about 350 sols – a term used to refer to a solar day on Mars – which is equivalent to about 359 days on Earth.

According to Professor Tkalcic, the findings from the earthquake could help scientists understand why the Red Planet no longer has a magnetic field.

“Marsquakes indirectly help us understand if convection is happening inside the planet’s interior, and if that convection is happening, which seems to be based on our findings, then there must be another mechanism at play that prevents a magnetic field from developing on Mars,” he said.

“All life on Earth is possible because of the Earth’s magnetic field and its ability to shield us from cosmic radiation, so without a magnetic field, life as we know it simply wouldn’t be possible.

“Therefore, understanding Mars’ magnetic field, how it evolved, and at what point in the planet’s history it ended is obviously important for future missions and is essential if scientists ever hope to establish life. human on Mars.”

Reference: “Repetitive marsquakes in Martian upper mantle” by Weijia Sun and Hrvoje Tkalcic, March 30, 2022, Nature Communication.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29329-x

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