There is a new meteorologist on Mars. Even though NASA's InSight spacecraft came to the red planet in late 201
The space agency has set up a website to share that information, which includes not only daily high and low temperatures, but unprecedented hourly data on wind speed, direction, and wind pressure for the location of InSight near the equator at Elysium Planitia. "We thought it was something that people could have some fun with," Don Banfield Cornell University, which led InSight's weather science, told Ars.
Other spacecraft has brought comparable temperature and air sensors to Mars before, but none carries such an accurate air pressure sensor. The new sensor is 10 times more sensitive than any other instrument since InSight needs to see partial movements in the Martian ground, and from such movements indicates details about the inside of the red planet. For these, things are in season.
The atmosphere of the Martian can be very large-it usually differs between 700 and 740 surface pascals, less than one percent of the Earth's surface pressure-but it may even give a slight tilting over the Martian. Hence, air pressure sensors can help scientists calibrate the lander's seismometer so that any bias due to higher or lower air pressure can be filtered out of the data. It's really amazing that even a thin atmosphere can have a slight impact on the surface of Martian, and that the InSight seismometer is sensitive enough to see it.
A Martian Mystery
Since InSight landed in November last year, Banfield and other scientists were eager to study data from the air pressure sensor, and they made some discoveries. Some are expected, such as waves of gravity in the atmosphere of Martian. The instrument measures repeated oscillations in the atmosphere most of the night. Such waves of gravity are also observed in the Earth's atmosphere, especially when a uniform air mass is disturbed by a mountain or island.
But scientists also found a mystery in pressure data over Mars. Twice a Martian day, around local 7 and 7:00, there are hiccups on what should be a smooth rise and fall over pressures. At first, scientists believe it should be caused by something in the lander, but eventually they have been able to get rid of a reason because of an anomalous instrument or source of InSight heating.
This feature is repeated and "slightly different," says Banfield. It is not predicted in any of the global or regional weather models for Mars. At present, scientists believe that the feature should be a kind of atmospheric wave in connection with sunrise and sunset on Mars. Perhaps there are downslope air flows that move to the steep topography, related to the Sun movement, which is immediately damaged by changes in the atmosphere.
In terms of temperatures and air, there was less surprise. Martian days are not too cold, with height ranging from -10 to -15 degrees Celsius. The night is bitter cold where InSight is, falling around -95 degrees Celsius. The air is not too remarkable, either, although scientists have observed more dust daemons than expected.
The association of dust and air on Mars remains one of the remaining questions that scientists like Banfield are hoping to fully understand before people visit the red planet. Dust has a huge role in Mars on the amount of energy that the planet's surface gets, and how it spans the space. Scientists want to understand the smallest air needed to lift the surface dust, a necessary precursor for dust daemons and dust storms. Banfield said he had built a sensor to produce only these measurements, and that he expected to fly on a future mission to Mars.