Your new daily fix: the Martian weather forecast
NASA makes the InSight lander's meteorological data freely available. Andrew Masterson reports.
Daily weather details are a necessity for many people and an obsession for many more, and now the morning check of conditions for places near and distant is set to become just that little bit more interesting – or daft, depending on your point of view.
As well as looking at the predicted temperatures for your home town, the city in which your daughter lives, your mum’s place, and that great village in France you visited on holiday last year, you can now include Mars in your daily survey.
Taking readings from the InSight Lander, the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory has launched a weather service, specific to the Elysium Planitia, the area where Insight has set up camp.
The data, it must be said, unlike the numbers for that cute place in France, are unlikely to prompt thoughts of a quick trip to enjoy the sun. At the time of writing, InSight was suffering through a day in which the minimum temp was predicted to be minus-95 degrees Celsius, increasing to a not-quite-balmy max of minus-17. (That’s minus-138 to two degrees Fahrenheit.)
As well as temperature range, the Mars weather service also provides hourly updates on atmospheric pressure and wind speed
“The InSight lander is close to the Martian equator – just north of the equator – so it is experiencing Martian winter,” explains Don Banfield from Cornell University in the US, the person in charge of the craft’s meteorological equipment.
Winter is the planet’s storm season. However, Banfield says it’s unlikely that the lander will be damaged by inclement weather.
“Since the lander is close to the equator, I didn’t think we’d see any evidence of the storms that are 60-degrees north latitude, but we’re already seeing evidence of the high and low pressure-signal waves that create weather on Mars,” he says.
“We can see those waves all the way down near the equator, as the waves are big enough that they have a signature. That was a surprise.”
The Red Planet weather forecasts can be found here.