First In History, NASA Makes an Underground Map of the Planet Mars, JAKARTA – NASA researchers created an underground map of Mars for the first time in history.

The map was created by listening to the sound of the wind echoing through layers of soil and rock near the Martian equator.

The team used instruments aboard NASA’s InSight craft, which landed on the Elysium Planitia plain in 2018 to study the planet’s weak rippling “martian earthquakes.” Previous InSight data allowed scientists to get a rough idea of ​​the size and composition of Mars’ core, as well as the nature of its mantle and crustal thickness.

A new technique developed and refined on Earth has now for the first time allowed a team led by Swiss geophysicists to use lander instruments to peer directly beneath the planet’s parched surface and discover what lies within the first 660 feet (200 meters) of its crust.

“We are using this technique developed here on Earth to characterize places at risk of earthquakes and to study subsurface structures,” Cedric Schmelzbach, a geophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), and co-author of the new paper said.

“This technique is based on ambient vibrations. On Earth, you have the oceans, the winds, which make the ground vibrate all the time, and the shocks you measure at any given point have traces beneath the surface.” said Schmelzbach.

Basically, the commotion on the surface made the ground tremble. These tiny vibrations travel deep beneath the surface and can be picked up by sensitive instruments.

Mars, said Schmelzbach, is much quieter than Earth. There are no oceans on the planet and the Martian atmosphere is much thinner, producing weaker and weaker winds. Moreover, while on Earth geologists can use countless stations, on Mars, they only have one InSight lander.

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However, listening to the interactions of the Red Planet’s winds with the ground beneath its craters and plains reveals subsurface structures in stunning detail.

The map provides an interesting glimpse into the last few billion years of Mars’ evolution. This revealed unexpected deep sediment layers as well as thick dense lava deposits, all covered with a 10 ft (3 m) thick blanket of sandy regolith.

The surprising layer of sediment, the origin of which remains a mystery, lies 100 to 230 feet (30 to 70 m) below the Martian surface, sandwiched between two layers of ancient hardened lava.

“We are still working on how to interpret that and how to age this layer,” he said. “But it does tell us that maybe the geological history at the site is really more complicated than we previously thought and maybe more processes have occurred in the past at the place.”

The researchers compared these two sediment-embracing lava layers with previous geological studies of a nearby crater. This data allowed them to place the origin of the layer into two important periods in the geological history of Mars about 1.7 billion and 3.6 billion years ago.

Previous studies of the planet’s core, mantle, and crust based on InSight data have revealed surprising differences between Mars and Earth. The two planets are often considered solar system twins who to some extent share their evolutionary paths.

Both planets develop abundant water oceans and rich atmospheres. But then, Mars lost its protective magnetic field, which then allowed the abrasive solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the sun, to gradually strip the planet of its atmosphere, and Mars evolved into the hostile world it is today. Scientists hope that the geology of the two planets can provide some clues to their divergent paths.

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The study was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday (November 23).




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