Mars would be, geographically speaking, not quite dead.
Researchers have examined the aftermath of recent earthquakes on the Red Planet and have shown that these Martian earthquakes were probably caused by magma moving deep beneath the Martian surface. Evidence that Mars is still volcanically active, researchers report on October 27 Nature Astronomy.
Since reaching Mars four years ago, NASA’s Insight lander has discovered more than 1,000 Marsquaters (SN: 11/26/18). Its seismometer records seismic waves that show information about the magnitude and location of the earthquake.
Previous studies have determined that the majority of Mars earthquakes originate from the Martian crust of Cerberus Fossae (SN: 5/13/22). This region, which is most prone to defects, is more than a thousand kilometers from the Inspection.
But most of the Martians associated with Cerberus Fossae are still quite familiar, scientifically speaking, says Anna Mittelholz, a planetary scientist at Harvard University. Their seismic waves, which are of low frequency, “are much more visible than what we see in earthquakes,” he said.
Mittelholz and his colleagues are now analyzing a large sample of Marsquaks, including more than a thousand frequency tremors that look nothing like their terrestrial brethren. In order to better understand the origin of the high-frequency movement, the researchers added their relatively weak signals. In that stack of seismic waves, the researchers saw a peak in the amount of seismic energy coming from the direction of Cerberus Crater. That was a serious undertaking, says Hrvoje Tkalčić, a geophysicist at the Australian National University in Canberra, who was not involved in the research. “No study before this high-frequency site vibrates.”
It is a wonder that the different kinds of Martians are all gathered together in one country. Previous research suggests that Marsquakes occur as the Martian surface cools and shrinks over time. That process, which occurs on the moon, would produce tremors evenly across the planet, Mittelholz says.SN: 5/13/19). “Expecting Marsquakes to start from all over the place.”
And by comparing the seismic waves that the probe measured with seismic waves produced in different regions on our planet, the researchers further demonstrated that the low-frequency Mars movement is probably produced by magma moving several tens of kilometers below the surface of Mars. “Our results are much more consistent with data on volcanic regions on Earth,” says Mittelholz.
Rather than being a geologically dead planet, as some have suggested, Mars might be a surprisingly dynamic place, the researchers conclude. This discovery rewrites our understanding of Martial, Mittelholzius says, and there is still much more to know about our celestial neighbor. “We’re just scratching the surface.”
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