NASA Rover Providing New Weather And Radiation Data About Mars | Aero-News Network
Aero-News Network
RSS icon RSS feed
podcast icon MP3 podcast
Subscribe Aero-News e-mail Newsletter Subscribe

** Airborne 12.19.14 ** HD iPad-Friendly -- Airborne 12.19.14 **
** Airborne 12.17.14 ** HD iPad-Friendly -- Airborne 12.17.14 **
** Airborne 12.15.14 ** HD iPad-Friendly -- Airborne 12.15.14 **

Sat, Nov 17, 2012

NASA Rover Providing New Weather And Radiation Data About Mars

Curiosity Is Increasing Understanding About The Martian Environment

Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface.

Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life.

During the first 12 weeks after Curiosity landed in an area named Gale Crater, an international team of researchers analyzed data from more than 20 atmospheric events with at least one characteristic of a whirlwind recorded by the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) instrument. Those characteristics can include a brief dip in air pressure, a change in wind direction, a change in wind speed, a rise in air temperature or a dip in ultraviolet light reaching the rover. Two of the events included all five characteristics.
 
In many regions of Mars, dust-devil tracks and shadows have been seen from orbit, but those visual clues have not been seen in Gale Crater. One possibility is that vortex whirlwinds arise at Gale without lifting as much dust as they do elsewhere. "Dust in the atmosphere has a major role in shaping the climate on Mars," said Manuel de la Torre Juarez of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. He is the investigation scientist for REMS, which Spain provided for the mission. "The dust lifted by dust devils and dust storms warms the atmosphere."
 
Dominant wind direction identified by REMS has surprised some researchers who expected slope effects to produce north-south winds. The rover is just north of a mountain called Mount Sharp. If air movement up and down the mountain's slope governed wind direction, dominant winds generally would be north-south. However, east-west winds appear to predominate. The rim of Gale Crater may be a factor.
 
"With the crater rim slope to the north and Mount Sharp to the south, we may be seeing more of the wind blowing along the depression in between the two slopes, rather than up and down the slope of Mount Sharp," said Claire Newman, a REMS investigator at Ashima Research in Pasadena. "If we don't see a change in wind patterns as Curiosity heads up the slope of Mount Sharp -- that would be a surprise."

REMS monitoring of air pressure has tracked both a seasonal increase and a daily rhythm. Neither was unexpected, but the details improve understanding of atmospheric cycles on present-day Mars, which helps with estimating how the cycles may have operated in the past.
 
The seasonal increase results from tons of carbon dioxide, which had been frozen into a southern winter ice cap, returning into the atmosphere as southern spring turns to summer. The daily cycle of higher pressure in the morning and lower pressure in the evening results from daytime heating of the atmosphere by the sun. As morning works its way westward around the planet, so does a wave of heat-expanded atmosphere, known as a thermal tide.
 
Effects of that atmospheric tide show up in data from Curiosity's Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). This instrument monitors high-energy radiation considered to be a health risk to astronauts and a factor in whether microbes could survive on Mars' surface. "We see a definite pattern related to the daily thermal tides of the atmosphere," said RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute's Boulder, Colo., branch. "The atmosphere provides a level of shielding, and so charged-particle radiation is less when the atmosphere is thicker. Overall, Mars' atmosphere reduces the radiation dose compared to what we saw during the flight to Mars."
 
The overall goal of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission is to use 10 instruments on Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes.

(Images provided by NASA. Top: Curiosity used a mechanism on its robotic arm to dig up five scoopfuls of material from a patch of dusty sand called "Rocknest," producing the five bite-mark pits visible in this image from the rover's left Navigation Camera (Navcam). Bottom Curiosity image from file. )

FMI: www.nasa.gov

Advertisement

More News

Airborne 12.17.14: Evergreen Woes, Foolish Pilot Tricks, No 757 Replacement--Yet

Also: $1M Aero-Photo, Draken Gets A-4s, 'Super Dell' Acts Super Dumb, Legendary Bell 47, Osprey Hours Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, LLC, the company that owns many of the aircraft on>[...]

Aero-TV: Redbird's Roger Sharp -- Pushing The Aero-Educational Envelope

One of The Most Important Aspects of GA is Flight Training... But Is The Industry Keeping Up With The Times? While at the Redbird Migration 2014, ANN CEO and Editor-In-Chief, Jim C>[...]

Aero-News: Quote Of The Day (12.19.14)

"This sale enables us to focus on improving Heathrow for passengers and winning support for Heathrow expansion." Source: John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow.>[...]

AD: Airbus Airplanes

AD NUMBER: AD 2014-25-06 PRODUCT: All Airbus Model A300 series airplanes; Airbus Model A300 B4-600, B4-600R, and F4-600R series airplanes, and Model A300 C4-605R Variant F airplane>[...]

ANN's Daily Aero-Linx (12.19.14)

How GPS Works We know it sometimes seems like a magic box that knows all and tells all, but the basics of how your GPS works are really pretty simple.>[...]

blog comments powered by Disqus



Advertisement

Advertisement

Podcasts

Advertisement

© 2007 - 2014 Web Development & Design by Pauli Systems, LC