You probably check the weather before you leave the house in the morning, but what if you’re heading out to Mars. Well, NASA has a new weather data for you. The InSight lander has been on the red planet for a few months, getting its instruments set up and calibrated. Now, NASA is ready to provide the first-ever Martian weather report. In the most recent update, it was a balmy 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius) at Elysium Planitia.
InSight landed on Mars late last year and began surveying its landing site. NASA chose Elysium Planitia because it’s a large, flat expanse idea for the probe’s planetary science mission. InSight deployed the first seismic sensor on another planet, and data from the so-called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) should be arriving soon.
NASA included sensors on InSight to track the temperature, pressure, and wind speed on Mars. That’s not its primary mission, but scientists need such data to account for potential variations in the probe’s seismic data. Temperature and wind come from the Temperature and Wind for InSight (TWINS), as shown in the above image. Meanwhile, the Auxiliary Payload Subsystem (APSS) has a pressure sensor.
A nice upshot of InSight’s comprehensive sensor package is the new weather page on the InSight website. The page currently lists all the weather stats for February 11-17. You get the highs, lows, and averages in each category. There’s even a three-day graph that helps visualize how the numbers change over the course of a Martian day (called a Sol).
You probably think of Mars as a chilly place, and it is. It might not be as frigid as you expected, though. The high temperatures can reach the low double-digits Fahrenheit during the day. That’s still below freezing, but warmer than plenty of Earth. The nighttime temperatures are much less hospitable at well over -100 degrees Fahrenheit. Sunday’s weather was typical for the late northern winter at Elysium Planitia with a high of 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-17 degrees Celsius) and low of -138 degrees Fahrenheit (-95 degrees Celsius). Mars is also famous for massive dust storms, but the average wind speed is just a few miles per hour. The atmospheric pressure is around 700 pascals, which is less than one percent that of Earth.
NASA says it will keep updating this data throughout the InSight mission. So, you’ll be able to check conditions at Elysium Planitia just on the off chance you find yourself on another planet.
NASA has also started working on the lander’s second instrument, the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3). This self-hammering spike will burrow up to five meters into the surface to measure the planet’s temperature.
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