Using humankind’s first seismometer on Mars, NASA scientists have discovered that the planet has a liquid iron core, according to a paper published Monday.
NASA’s InSight lander arrived on Mars in 2018 and measured faint “marsquakes” in 2021, a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences noted. The core is made of liquid iron alloy rich in lightweight elements such as sulfur and oxygen, as well as smaller amounts of hydrogen and carbon.
Two large quakes resulted from a meteorite hitting Mars’ surface. Scientists can determine the planet’s age based on the meteor impacts. The seismometer provides data on the crust, mantle and core of the planet. (RELATED: NASA Announces Crew For First Moon Landing In 50 Years)
“Remember I wrote about 2 distant marsquakes? And that 1 of them came from a large meteorite? Well we’re not done with them yet. Now we’ve used the data to look at the core of Mars,” tweeted coauthor and co-lead of NASA InSight’s Marsquake Service, Anna Horleston.
Remember I wrote about 2 distant marsquakes? And that 1 of them came from a large meteorite? Well we’re not done with them yet. Now we’ve used the data to look at the core of Mars. Great to be a co-author on this amazing work led by @jess_irving. @UoBEarthScience@spacegovuk https://t.co/38jBI52eEt
— Anna Horleston (@SeismoAnna) April 25, 2023
“In 1906, scientists first discovered the Earth’s core by observing how seismic waves from earthquakes were affected by traveling through it,” coauthor and University of Maryland Associate Professor of Geology Vedran Lekic said in a news release, “More than a hundred years later, we’re applying our knowledge of seismic waves to Mars.”
“With InSight, we’re finally discovering what’s at the center of Mars and what makes Mars so similar yet distinct from Earth.”
Scientists hypothesize Mars once had a magnetic field, similar to Earth’s core-generated field. Mars might have evolved from a potentially habitable environment into a hostile one.
This discovery helps pave the way for future expeditions to other celestial bodies, including planets like Venus and Mercury.
“InSight will continue to influence how we understand the formation and evolution of Mars and other planets for years to come,” Lekic said.