3 Things We Learned From NASA’s Mars InSight

3 Things We Learned From NASA’s Mars InSight

Press Release from: Jet Devolution Laboratory
Posted: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Scientists are discovering new mysteries since the geology mission came ashore two years ago.

NASA’s InSight spacecraft visited down Nov. 26, 2018, on Mars to explore the inner depths of the planet. Just over one Martian year later, the stationery writer has detected more than 480 earthquakes and collected the most complete weather data of any surface mission sent to Mars. It has an InSight probe, which has been struggling to dig underground to take the planet’s temperature he also made progress.

There was a time when the surfaces of Mars and Earth were very similar. They were both warm, wet, and polished in a thick atmosphere. But 3 or 4 billion years ago, these two worlds took different paths. The mission of InSight (short for Interior Study using Seismic Studies, Geodesy and Heat Conduction) has been helping scientists to compare the Earth to its rusty brother. By studying the depth of Mars, how that material is layered, and how quickly heat is emitted, scientists could help to better understand how planetary starters make it more likely to sustain life.

While more science is to come from InSight, here are three results about our red-haired neighbor in the sky.

Rumblings Faint is the norm

The InSight seismometer, donated by the French space agency, the National Center d’Études Spatiales (CNES), is sensitive enough to detect small rumblings from large distances. But it wasn’t until April 2019 that seismologists with the Marsquake Service, coordinated by ETH Zurich, took over. they found their first merchant. Since then, Mars has made up more for the loss of time by frequent, though gentle, earthquakes with no magnitude 3.7 earthquakes.

The absence of an earthquake greater than magnitude 4 is a mystery, considering how often the Red Planet shakes due to a smaller earthquake.

“It’s no surprise that we haven’t seen a bigger event,” said seismologist Mark Panning of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, which is leading the InSight mission. “Maybe that tells us something about Mars, or maybe it tells us something about luck.”

Put another way: It could be that Mars is just more stable than expected – or that InSight landed in a quiet time.

Seismologists have to keep waiting patiently for these largest earthquakes to study deep layers under the crust. “Sometimes you get great flavors of amazing information, but most of the time you discover what nature has to tell you,” said InSight Chief Investigator Bruce Banerdt from JPL. “It’s more like trying to find difficult ads than giving us the answers in a neatly wrapped package. “

The wind can hide Quakes

As soon as InSight began detecting earthquakes, they became so regular that, at one time, they happened every day. Then, at the end of June this year, the discoveries largely stopped. Only five earthquakes have been detected since then, all since September.

Scientists believe that Mars’ winds are responsible for these empty times: The planet entered the windiest season of the Martian year around June. The mission knew that winds could affect InSight awareness seismometer, equipped with domed wind and heat shield. But the wind is still shaking the earth itself and creating a literal sound that covers an earthquake. This may also have contributed to the resemblance of the long seismic silence before the first InSight earthquake, since the spacecraft landed during a settlement of a regional dust storm.

“Before we landed, we had to gauge how the wind would affect surface vibrations,” Banerdt said. “As we work with events that are much smaller than we would have noticed on Earth, we will find that we need to pay much closer attention to the wind. “

Surface waves are missing

An earthquake has two sets of body waves, namely waves that travel through the interior of the planet: primary waves (P-waves) and secondary waves (S-waves). . They also tear off the top of the crust as part of a third section, called a surface wave.

On Earth, seismologists use surface waves to learn more about the inner structure of the planet. Before they reached Mars, InSight seismologists expected these waves to offer views as deep as 250 miles (about 400 kilometers) below the surface, into a subterranean layer called the mantle. But Mars still offers mysteries: Despite hundreds of earthquakes, none have absorbed surface waves.

“It’s not entirely uncommon to experience an earthquake without surface waves, but it’s been a surprise,” Panning said. “For example, you can’t see surface waves on the Moon. But that’s because the Moon is much more scattered than Mars.”

The dry lunar crust is more broken than Earth and Mars, causing seismic waves to crash around in a looser pattern lasting more than an hour. The lack of surface waves on Mars could be linked to a wide eruption in the top 6 miles (10 kilometers) under InSight. It could also mean that the earthquakes detected by InSight come from depths inside the planet, as these would not produce strong surface waves.

Of course, solving such mysteries is what science is all about, and there is more to come with InSight.

More about the mission

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Steering Group. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the organization’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, incorporating the tour and lander platform, and it supports spacecraft activity for the mission.

The InSight mission is supported by several European partners, including the French National Center for Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). CNES presented the instrument Seismic Test for Internal Structure (SEIS) to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Important contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the instrument Heat Flow Package and Physical Buildings (HP3), with important donations from the Space Research Center (CBK) from the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. The Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) from Spain provided the temperature and wind sensors.

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