Deep Inside Mars, a Liquid Center

May 9, 2023

With its reddish hue, one might call the planet Mars the apple of our solar system. And now, thanks to new data from NASA’s InSight Lander, we know what’s in its core.

A University of Maryland research team published its findings in late April. It found that the center of the Red Planet is mostly liquid. More specifically, Mars’ core is molten iron mixed with oxygen and sulfur. This is unlike Earth's solid iron core. 

Even with modern technology, drilling into Mars was impossible. Instead, geologists like Vedran Lekic studied information from the InSight lander. 

Lekic said that the Earth's core was first discovered in 1906. Scientists found it by looking at how seismic waves from an earthquake acted as they went through it. Now, they are using that same knowledge on Mars.  

In other words, they studied marsquakes. InSight measured how quickly a quake traveled through the planet. If it met resistance once it hit the core, it would mean that the center was solid. Instead, the waves moved quickly. They acted like they hit liquid.  

His team is excited about their discovery. However, he says now there are more questions.   

“It’s like a puzzle in some ways,” Lekic said. He explained that there is a tiny bit of hydrogen in Mars' center. This means something special happened for the hydrogen to be there. They need to learn more to know how Mars became the planet it is today.

Photo from Unsplash via Planet Volumes.

Reflect: What do you think are some of the most interesting and mysterious things about space, and do you think humans should keep exploring and learning about space?

The main purpose of the concluding paragraph is to _______. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. introduce the findings from the University of Maryland research team
b. provide helpful background knowledge on when the Earth’s core was first discovered
c. explain how InSight is used to detect earthquakes on Mars
d. mention some of the questions that need to be answered
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