Scientists now know that things run on Mars fairly regularly, adding to mounting evidence that the Red Planet is far from dying.
New research has revealed previously undetected earthquakes under the surface of Mars, which experts believe is evidence of this It hosts a sea of magma in its mantle.
They believe the “Mars earthquakes” are best explained by persistent volcanic activity beneath the dusty and barren surface of Mars, and they believe the planet is more volcanically and seismically active than initially thought.
Experts have long thought there wasn’t much going on inside Mars, but researchers at the Australian National University made their discovery after combing through data from NASA’s Mars Insight probe.
New research has revealed previously undetected earthquakes beneath the surface of Mars, which experts believe is evidence that it hosts a sea of magma in its mantle. Pictured is an artist’s rendering of the InSight lander, which has been ‘taking the heartbeat of Mars’ since landing on the planet in 2018.
Using two unconventional methods, recently applied to geophysics, experts have detected 47 new seismic events coming from an area on Mars called Cerberus Fossae (pictured)
Researchers at the Australian National University made their discovery after combing through data from NASA’s Mars Insight probe. Pictured is the Insight landing site and the waveforms of two Mars earthquakes
Was Mars home to liquid water?
Evidence for water on Mars dates back to the Mariner 9 mission, which arrived in 1971. It revealed evidence of water erosion in riverbeds and valleys as well as weather fronts and fog.
The Vikings that followed revolutionized our ideas about water on Mars by showing how floods broke through dams and carved deep valleys.
Mars is currently in the middle of the Ice Age, and prior to this study, scientists believed that liquid water could not exist on its surface.
In June 2013, Curiosity found strong evidence that water was drinkable once it flowed onto Mars.
In September of the same year, the first scoop of soil analyzed by Curiosity revealed that the microelements on the planet’s surface contained 2 percent water by weight.
In 2017, scientists gave their best estimates of water on Mars, claiming that it contained more liquid H2O than the Arctic Ocean – and the planet has kept these oceans for more than 1.5 billion years.
The results suggest there is plenty of time and water for life to thrive on Mars, but over the past 3.7 billion years the Red Planet has lost 87 percent of its water – leaving it barren and dry.
“Knowing that the mantle of Mars is still active is crucial to our understanding of how Mars evolved as a planet,” said geophysicist Hrvuje Takalić of the Australian National University in Australia.
It can help us answer fundamental questions about the solar system and the state of Mars’ core, mantle, and evolution of the magnetic field that it currently lacks.
Mars has very little magnetic field, which indicates a lack of internal activity.
Planetary magnetic fields are typically generated within a planet by something called a dynamo — a rotating, convective, electrically conducting fluid that converts kinetic energy into magnetic energy, and spins a magnetic field out into space.
Earth’s magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation that can destroy life, but radiation levels on Mars are much higher even though the planet is far from the sun.
“All life on Earth is possible because of the Earth’s magnetic field and its ability to protect us from cosmic radiation, so without a magnetic field life as we know it simply wouldn’t be possible,” Tkalči said.
However, when NASA’s InSight probe arrived in November 2018 and began “taking the pulse of Mars” I found that the planet was gurgling.
So far, hundreds of Martian earthquakes have been detected, but Tkalči and his colleague, geophysicist Weijia Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, wanted to look for earthquakes that might have gone unnoticed in the InSight data.
Using two unconventional techniques, recently applied to geophysics, the duo detected 47 new seismic events coming from an area on Mars called Cerberus Fossae.
Most of them resemble the waveforms of the two Cerberus Fossae earthquakes that occurred in May and July 2019, indicating that smaller earthquakes are associated with larger ones.
While searching to determine the cause of the earthquakes, researchers discovered that there was no pattern in their timing, ruling out the influence of the Martian moon Phobos.
“We have found that these Martian earthquakes occurred frequently at all times of the Martian day, while the Mars earthquakes that NASA detected and reported in the past appear to have only occurred during the night when the planet is calmer,” Tkalči said.
Since its arrival in November 2018, the InSight probe has worked with several missions that orbit Mars and roam the planet’s surface: including the Curiosity rover
Therefore, we can hypothesize that the movement of molten rock in Mars’ mantle is the driver of these 47 newly discovered earthquakes under the Cerberus Fosai region.
Previous research at Cerberus Fossae has already indicated that the area has been volcanically active for the last 10 million years.
If Mars is more volcanically and seismically active than initially thought, Tkalčić and Sun believe, it will change the way scientists view its past, present, and future.
Mars earthquakes indirectly help us understand whether convection is occurring within the planet’s interior, and if such convection is occurring, and it seems based on our results, there must be another mechanism at play that prevents the magnetic field from developing on Mars, Tkalči said.
It’s clear that “understanding the magnetic field of Mars, how it evolved, and at what point in the planet’s history it stopped, is clearly important for future missions and is critical if scientists ever hope to establish human life on Mars.”
The search was published in Nature Communications.
What are INSIGHT’s 3 main tools?
Lander that can reveal how Earth formed: The InSight lander is set to land on Mars on November 26
Three main instruments allow the InSight lander to “take the heartbeats” of the Red Planet:
seismometer: InSight lander carrying a seismometerSEIS, which listens for the pulse of Mars.
A seismometer records waves that travel through the planet’s internal structure.
The study of seismic waves tells us what might be causing the waves.
On Mars, scientists think the culprits may be earthquakes or meteors hitting the surface.
heat probe: The HP3 Heat Flow Probe is penetrating deeper than any other shovels, drills or probes on Mars before it.
It will look at how much heat is still flowing from Mars.
Radio antennas: Mars swings slightly like Earth as it rotates on its axis.
To study this, two radio antennas, part of the RISE instrument, are tracking the probe’s location very precisely.
This helps scientists test the planet’s reactions and tells them how the deep internal structure affects the planet’s movement around the sun.