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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

A quake on Mars confirmed its crust is thicker than Earth’s

Planetary scientists now know the way thick the Martian crust is, because of the strongest Marsquake ever noticed.

On common, the crust is between 42 and 56 kilometers thick, researchers report in a paper to seem in Geophysical Analysis Letters. That’s roughly 70 p.c thicker than the common continental crust on Earth.

The measurement was based mostly on information from NASA’s InSight lander, a stationary seismometer that recorded waves rippling by means of Mars’ inside for 4 Earth years. Final Could, your entire planet shook with a magnitude 4.7 quake that lasted greater than six hours (SN: 5/13/22). “We had been actually lucky that we received this quake,” says seismologist Doyeon Kim of ETH Zurich.

InSight recorded seismic waves from the quake that circled Mars as much as thrice. That allow Kim and colleagues infer the crust thickness over the entire planet.

Not solely is the crust thicker than that of the Earth and the moon, nevertheless it’s additionally inconsistent throughout the Purple Planet, the workforce discovered. And that may clarify a recognized north-south elevation distinction on Mars.

Topological and gravity information from Mars orbiters have proven that the planet’s northern hemisphere is considerably decrease than the southern one. Researchers had suspected that density may play a component: Maybe the rocks that make up northern Mars have a unique density than these of southern Mars.

However the crust is thinner within the northern hemisphere, Kim and colleagues discovered, so the rocks in each hemispheres in all probability have the identical common densities. That discovering helps scientists slender down the reasons for why the distinction exists within the first place.

Realizing the crust’s depth, the workforce additionally calculated that a lot of Mars’ inside warmth in all probability originates within the crust. Most of this warmth comes from radioactive parts akin to potassium, uranium and thorium. An estimated 50 to 70 p.c of these parts are in all probability within the crust moderately than the underlying mantle, pc simulations counsel. That helps the concept components of Mars nonetheless have volcanic exercise, opposite to a long-held perception that the Purple Planet is lifeless (SN: 11/3/22).  

Lisa Grossman

Lisa Grossman is the astronomy author. She has a level in astronomy from Cornell College and a graduate certificates in science writing from College of California, Santa Cruz. She lives close to Boston.

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