NASA has announced a new daily Mars weather report utilising data collected by the agency’s InSight lander. The report features temperature, wind speeds and air pressure readings from an area near the Mars equator referred to as the Elysium Planitia.
“It gives you the sense of visiting an alien place,” said Don Banfield of Cornell University, who leads InSight’s weather science. “Mars has familiar atmospheric phenomena that are still quite different than those on Earth.”
The daily weather report, which was launched on February 19, features weather reading starting from February 14, 2019, or Sol (Mars solar day) 78 of the Insight mission. As of writing, temperatures are only updated as far as February 20, a day that saw a maximum of -13°C (8°F) and a minimum of -95°C(139°F). It is as yet unclear how frequently the Mars weather report will be updated.
The NASA InSight lander was launched aboard an Atlas V on May 5, 2018. It touched down safely on Mars on November 26, 2018, at 19:52:59 UTC. Over the next few weeks, operators back on Earth began to deploy various science payloads to Red Planet’s dusty surface.
In addition to a number of other science payloads, the lander is equipped with a bank of sensors referred to as the Auxilliary Payload Subsystem (APSS). These instruments capture up-to-the-second weather information that is then sent to Earth on a daily basis. The lander is expected to continue to collect these data for the next two Earth years. This data collected over that time will allow meteorologists to study seasonal changes among other things.
“By operating continuously, we’ll also see a more detailed view of the weather than most surface missions, which usually collect data only intermittently throughout a sol,” explained Banfield.