Mars magnetic field 10 times stronger than expected: NASA
New Delhi : The reason why Earth has life and Mars is mere a wasteland in space is the magnetic field of the planet, the invisible force that shields the atmosphere from the harmful effects of the solar wind.
But this does not mean that Mars has no magnetic field, it has a relatively very less magnetic field. And now, NASA’s InSight lander has found it’s actually 10 times stronger than expected.
Unlike other NASA missions to the Martian surface, InSight isn’t a rover - it’s a static lander.
The InSight was landed on Mars around one and a half year ago with two major goals – one to understand about the formation of Mars planet and second to know about the tectonically active Mars and meteorite impacts.
Insight happens to be the first mission that aims at measuring seismic activity on the red planet.
Previously, the only reliable measurements of Mars’ magnetic field were performed by orbiting satellites that were hovering hundreds of kilometres from the red planet’s surface.
According to the measurements reported in Nature Geosciences, Mars’ magnetic field is actually 10 times stronger than scientists were led to believe from satellite readings. This would make Mars’ magnetic field, while still very weak compared to Earth’s much stronger than initially thought.
Scientists are still finding reasons on why the red planet lost its magnetosphere but there are currently two leading theories. The first says that its core shut down, deactivating the dynamo and consequently Mars’ global magnetic field. The other leading hypothesis suggests that massive heat generated by large asteroid impacts warmed the outer layer of the planet to such a degree that it shut down convection from the hot core to the mantle.
According to NASA, there are still ‘fossil’ magnetic fields embedded in certain features of the red planet’s surface. The magnetic field recently measured by InSight is believed to emanate from very old rocks that are several hundred meters below the surface.
“Geological mapping and InSight seismic data suggest that much or all of the magnetization sources are carried in basement rocks, which are at least 3.9 billion years old and are overlain by between 200 m and ~10 km of lava flows and modified ancient terrain,” the authors of the new study wrote.