Researchers from the Australian National University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have discovered 47 previously unrecorded underground tremors in the area of faults known as Cerberus Fossae on Mars. Scientists speculate that these “Mars shocks” were caused by magma activity in the Martian mantle.
Cerberus Fossae is a seismically active area on the red planet, which is a system of faults in the Elysian Plateau. Scientists believe the area is less than 20 million years old.
The researchers used data obtained by a seismograph from NASA’s InSight lander in 2018. The scientists developed a unique algorithm based on the matched filter method and Benford’s law. Analysis of data from 350 sols (Martian days) showed traces of previously undetected “Mars shaking.”
Seismologists note that the discovered seismic events were relatively small, caused slight shaking of the Mars surface and would have been hardly felt if they had occurred on Earth. Nevertheless, repeated events in the same area at different times of day show that there is more seismic activity on Mars than previously thought.
Cerberus furrows. Image: NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Arizona
The findings, the researchers believe, indicate that magma in the Martian mantle is still active, and it is this that causes volcanic “Mars shocks.” The study refutes previous beliefs that seismic activity on Mars is caused by tectonic forces.
Convection (movement of flows) in planetary mantles, the researchers note, contributes to heat exchange at the core-mantle boundary, which, among other things, leads to the formation of the magnetic field.
“Seismic activity on Mars indirectly helps us understand whether convection is occurring within the planet. And, if this convection occurs, which seems to be confirmed by our findings, there must be another reason that prevents the magnetic field from forming,” says Hrvoje Tkalčić, a geophysicist at the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University and one of the authors of the study.
The existence of life on Earth is only possible because of our planet’s magnetic field, which protects us from cosmic radiation, the scientists said. Understanding the nature of Mars’ magnetic field, its evolution and at what point it disappeared is crucial for Martian missions and plans to colonize the planet.
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