Detailed Comparison of Mars and Earth’s Interiors Revealed by Study

Mars is right next to Earth in the solar system. Both are made of rock, but they are different all the way down to their cores.

Based on seismic data collected by NASA’s robotic InSight lander, a new study gives us a better idea of the deep core of Mars and new information about how it is different from Earth, which is the third planet from the sun.

The first discovery of seismic waves traveling through the core of a planet other than Earth led to this study. It showed that the innermost layer of Mars is slightly smaller and denser than was thought before. It also gave the best estimate so far of what the core of Mars is made of.

Both worlds have cores that are mostly made of liquid iron. But a study found that about 20% of the core of Mars is made up of things lighter than iron. Most of these are sulfur, but the study also found oxygen, carbon, and a little bit of hydrogen.

That is about twice the amount of these elements in Earth’s core, so the Martian core is much less dense than Earth’s. However, it is denser than an estimate from 2021 based on a different type of data from the now-defunct InSight spacecraft.

“The deepest parts of Earth and Mars are made up of different materials,” said seismologist Jessica Irving of the University of Bristol in England. She was the lead author of a study that came out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

How Big is the Mars’s Core?

The study also got a better idea of how big Mars’s core is. It found that its width is about 2,212-2,249 miles (3,560-3,620 km), which is about 12-31 miles (20-50 km) smaller than what was thought before. The core of Mars takes up a slightly smaller part of the diameter of the planet than the center of Earth.

The core of a hard planet or moon can affect whether or not it could support life. For example, the core helps make the Earth’s magnetic field, which protects the world from harmful particles from the sun and space.

“Planets and moons like Earth have hard silicate layers on the outside and a metal core made mostly of iron. Irving said, “A planetary dynamo is one of the most important things a core can do to make a planet habitable.”

The core of Earth does this, but the core of Mars doesn’t, although it used to do so billions of years ago. “It is likely that Mars’ core no longer has the fast, turbulent movement that is needed to make such a field,” Irving said.

Mars is about 4,212 miles (6,779 km) in diameter, while Earth is about 7,918 miles (12,742 km) in diameter, and Earth has almost seven times more space.

The tweet below confirms the news:

The way seismic waves behave as they move through a world can tell us about its structure. The new information comes from two earthquakes that happened on the other side of Mars from where the InSight lander and its seismometer were sitting on the surface of the planet.

The first one happened in August 2021 and was near Valles Marineris, which is the biggest canyon in the solar system. The second was a meteorite that hit in September 2021 and made a hole that was about 425 feet (130 meters) wide.

After four years of use, InSight was officially taken out of service by the U.S. space agency in December. Its solar-powered batteries could no longer be charged because of a buildup of dust.

Vedran Lekic, a geophysicist at the University of Maryland and co-author of the study said, “The InSight mission has been a huge success in helping us figure out the structure and conditions of the planet’s interior.” “Putting a network of seismometers on Mars would lead to even more discoveries and help us understand the planet as a whole, which we can’t do by just looking at its surface from space.”

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