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InSight Data Reveals Mars Has a Liquid Core

A photograph of Mars, the red planet. Depositphotos.

NASA's InSight mission findings indicate that Mars has a sulfur and oxygen-rich liquid core, providing new insights into the formation, evolution, and potential habitability of terrestrial planets.

InSight Mission Sheds Light on Mars’ Core Composition

Recent research on NASA’s InSight mission data has unveiled that Mars has a liquid core abundant in sulfur and oxygen. This breakthrough discovery provides fresh insights into the formation and evolution of terrestrial planets and their potential to sustain life.

Liquid Iron-Alloy Core Unveiled on Mars

A group of international researchers, including University of Maryland seismologists, has confirmed that the Red Planet has a completely liquid iron-alloy core. Additionally, this core is believed to be enriched with sulfur and oxygen. This discovery, detailed in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contrasts with Earth’s core, consisting of a liquid outer core and a solid inner core. To make the intriguing discovery, researchers used seismic data from NASA’s InSight lander mission (which is no longer active) to measure the Red Planet’s core properties.

Seismic Waves Reveal Mars’ Core

UMD Associate Professor of Geology Vedran Lekić, the paper’s second author, noted that scientists first identified Earth’s core in 1906 by analyzing how seismic waves from earthquakes were affected when traveling through it. “With InSight, we’re finally discovering what’s at the center of Mars and what makes Mars so similar yet distinct from Earth,” Lekić explained.

InSight’s Seismic Data Offers Key Insights

The research team monitored InSight’s seismic data, which detected a Marsquake and a meteor strike. Seismologist Jessica Irving from the University of Bristol in Britain explained that this was the first time anyone had observed a seismic wave passing through Mars’ core. The scientists measured the time these seismic waves traveled through Mars and compared them to waves that remained in the mantle. This data allowed them to estimate the core’s density and determine its sulfur and oxygen chemical makeup.

Mars’ Core and Its Implications for Planetary Formation and Evolution

UMD Associate Professor of Geology Nicholas Schmerr, a paper co-author, emphasized that a planet’s core properties can provide crucial information about its formation and dynamic evolution over time. Although Mars lacks a magnetic field, remnants of magnetism in its crust suggest that it may have had one. Schmerr explained that Earth’s unique core generates a magnetic field that shields us from solar winds and helps retain water, making our planet hospitable to life. In contrast, Mars’ core does not offer this protection, resulting in a hostile environment for life on its surface.