We take the daily weather bulletins for granted here on Earth, but their commonplace utility has just received extraordinary competition from NASA's InSight mission, who now reports on temperatures and wind speed from his home at Elysium Planitia.
The undercarriage is equipped with sophisticated meteorological monitoring equipment thanks to one of its instruments, a ultra-sensitive seismometer that scientists will use to see in the interior of the planet. But this device is so sensitive that it could confuse gusts of wind with what's called marsquakes, which is why scientists have to follow the weather, second by second, on Mars.
"It gives you the feeling of visiting a foreign place," said Don Banfield, chief meteorologist for InSight and a scientist in planetary science at Cornell University in the state of New York, said in a statement. "Mars has familiar atmospheric phenomena that are still very different from those of the Earth."[[[[Mars InSight in Photos: NASA's mission to probe the heart of the red planet]
The InSight team has created a website hosting the mission's meteorological data, including daily maximum and minimum temperatures, wind speed and direction, and atmospheric pressure information. Data dates back to February 11th, the 75th day of InSight on the Martian surface; It takes a day or two from the end of a Martian day for the data to be available on the website.
InSight is located on a flat plain called Elysium Planitia, where it is currently winter – and the reported temperatures are suitably cold, with no daily maximum cracking 15 ° F (about 9 ° C). Average temperatures are surely in the minus 80 ° F (minus 60 ° C), with minimums as cold as minus 140 ° F (minus 95 ° C).
This does not account for wind chill, and gusts of Elysium Planitia reach heights of up to 37.8 mph (17 meters per second).
All this data is not just designed to make winter on Earth in the northern hemisphere less sinister: this information also plays a crucial role in The scientific mission of InSight. Scientists will use the temperature, atmospheric pressure and wind information to ensure that the motion detected by the lander's seismometer actually comes from the Martian surface.
That said, scientists are already discovering many intriguing meteorological phenomena in the data they have seen so far. For example, they noticed how simple the pressure changes on Mars are compared to those in the Earth's atmosphere. "Compared to Mars, the Earth is pretty chaotic," said Banfield. says in a different statement. "It's a very regular swing guided by a metronome on Mars.On Earth, the pressure is guided by a hyperactive child."
Other phenomena seem more dramatic on Mars than on Earth. Scientists already knew what they called dust devils – big bursts of spiral dust – on Mars. But the researchers did not expect the features to be as large or as violent as they are at InSight, where the devils literally tilted the ground under the seismometer.
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