A dust devil passed over NASA's lander on Mars

12 Mai, 2019, 03:30 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • A dust devil passed over NASA's lander on Mars

According to the space agency, on February 1 InSight's solar panels experienced 0.7 and 2.7 percent bumps in power, suggesting wind cleared parts of the panels.

Key to measuring these cleanings are InSight's weather sensors, collectively known as the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite, or APSS.

A colour-composite image showing track marks left behind by the convergence of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of dust devils on Mars. And InSight's two large solar panels have lost about 30% of their power output since landing because of dust and distance from the sun. "It gives us a starting point for understanding how the wind is driving changes on the surface". NASA engineers would like to capture power boosts comparable to the ones experienced by Opportunity and Spirit-so they're actively hoping for more powerful vortices. There was also an increase in electrical current for the lander. The wind changed direction by 180 degrees, for example, while the wind speed suddenly jumped to 45 miles per hour (72 kilometres per hour).

"The absolute fastest wind we've directly measured so far from InSight was 63 miles per hour, so the vortex that lifted dust off our solar panels was among the strongest winds we've seen", said InSight participating scientist Aymeric Spiga of the Dynamic Meteorology Laboratory at Sorbonne University in Paris. As on Earth, dust devils are more prominent during this time of day owing to the interactions of hot surfaces with cooler air above. "Without a passing vortex, the winds are more typically between about 4-20 miles per hour, depending on time of day".

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This dust lifting happened at 1:33 p.m. local Mars time, which is also consistent with the detection of a dust devil. But the mission officially concluded this year. This drop in output is, however, calculated for and the 2,700 watt-hours per sol now produced by the panels are more than enough for daily operations, which account for roughly 1,500 watt-hours per sol. But even if they don't see one for a while, they have ample power.

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL.

Another tool, RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), will assess perturbations of Mars' rotation axis, and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) will determine the amount of heat escaping from the planet's interior. Spain's Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

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