NASA unveils InSight lander's findings on Mars

Rodiano Bonacci
Febbraio 27, 2020

"By placing the first magnetic sensor at the surface, we have gained valuable new clues about the interior structure and upper atmosphere of Mars that will help us understand how it - and other planets like it - formed". Scientists still have their fingers crossed for "the Big One". But there are magnetizing ancient rocks which are now around 200 feet below the surface of Mars. Because, as we just said, there is no plate tectonics on the red planet.

At InSight's location, most surface rocks are too young to have been magnetised by the former magnetic field.

There's still no guarantees, of course, but if we hope to find life on Mars today we'd likely have to focus on features that we can't see from above, like underground caves.

Another surprise has come from data collected by InSight's magnetometer, which has picked up on a local magnetic field about ten times stronger than researchers expected to see. Scientists are now using these data and what was previously known to understand the magnetised layers below InSight. "How strong or deep would they have to be for us to detect this field?" says Catherine Johnson, a planetary scientist at the University of British Columbia and the Planetary Science Institute. In expansion, the analysts saw Martian climate as like that of Earth; however, with crucial contrasts, for example, more grounded day by day barometrical weight and temperature changes. The measurements vary by day and night; they also tend to pulse around midnight. The team believe that the day-night fluctuations arise from a combination of how the solar wind and International Monetary Fund drape around the planet, and solar radiation charging the upper atmosphere and producing electrical currents, which in turn generate magnetic fields.

For 15 months NASA's InSight robot craft scoured the surface of Earth's neighbour, and measured hundreds of so-called "Marsquakes".

Then there is the small matter of the swirling winds, which become visible when they collect grit from the surface and toss it around. The MRO also gained some degree of fame a year ago when it took a picture of a structure on Mars created by the interaction of winds and dust dunes which looked remarkably like the Star Trek logo.

Winds reach their peak in the late afternoon when atmospheric pressure drops and dust devil activity occurs. But SEIS can feel these whirlwinds pulling on the surface.

"Overwhelming evidence exists that Mars had liquid water oceans roughly 4 billion years ago", said Tim Lyons, University of California, Riverside distinguished professor of biogeochemistry and author of a new study exploring Mars' past.

NASA believes that collecting and understanding data over a full Martian year (that would be two years here on earth, you peasants) would give scientists a much better understanding of the red planet.

InSight is created to operate for a full Martian year, which is the equivalent of two Earth years.

A division of Caltech in Pasadena, JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. This mission is part of NASA's Discovery Program to launch solar system exploration missions at a lower cost than the flagship missions like Curiosity and OSIRIS-REx.

The InSight lander is one of the essential spacecraft that have been deployed in recent times. It is being supported by a number of European partners, which include France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).

InSight has several instruments, including the Heat and Physical Properties Package (HP3) that keeps popping out of the ground.

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