The rich meteorology of Mars has been studied in detail by the rover

The rich meteorology of Mars has been studied in detail by the rover

Daily temperature cycles at Jezero Crater on Mars measured with the MEDA instrument. Credit: UPV-EHU/CAB-INTA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/

Perseverance is an autonomous NASA rover that arrived at Jezero Crater (an ancient, now dry lake bed on Mars) on February 18, 2021. The rover is equipped with seven new complex science instruments dedicated to probing the planet’s surface for possible signs of past life, collecting and depositing samples for return to Mars. Earth, testing new technologies for use in human exploration, and studying the planet’s atmosphere in detail.

With regard to the aim of the study Atmosphere, the MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) instrument gets new results. MEDA’s principal investigator is José Antonio Rodríguez-Manfredi of the Center for Astrobiology (CAB) in Madrid, and involved a team from the UPV/EHU’s Planetary Science Research Group. The instrument consists of an array of sensors that measure temperature, pressure, wind, humidity and properties of dust that is always in suspension in the Martian atmosphere.

Perseverance has now completed its atmospheric probe throughout the first Martian year (which lasts about two Earth years). A preview of the results, which appears on the cover, was published today in the January issue of the magazine Natural Earth Sciences.

Specifically, the UPV/EHU team, formed by Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, Ricardo Hueso, Teresa del Río-Gaztelurrutia and Ph.D. Led by student Asier Munguira, the study of the seasonal and daily cycles of temperature and pressure, as well as important differences on other time scales caused by very different processes.

Over the seasons, the average air temperature in Jezero crater, located near the planet’s equator, is around minus 55 degrees Celsius, but varies greatly between day and night, with typical variations of 50 to 60 degrees. In the middle of the day, surface heating generates turbulent movements in the air as a result of the rise and fall of air masses (convection) that stops in the evening when the air settles.

On the other hand, pressure sensors show in detail the seasonal change of the weak Martian atmosphere caused by thawing and freezing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere In the Polar capsas well as through a complex and variable daily cycle, which is modulated by convective tides in the atmosphere.

“The pressure and temperature of the Martian atmosphere fluctuate with the periods of the Martian solar day (somewhat longer than the Earth’s day, since it averages 24 hours and 39.5 minutes) and with its subdivisions, following the daily cycle of sunlight which is greatly affected by the amount of dust and the presence of clouds in atmosphere,” says Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, professor at the Faculty of Engineering – Bilbao (EIB) and co-investigator of the Mars 2020 mission.

Both sensors also monitor dynamic phenomena in the atmosphere that occur near the rover, for example, those caused by the passing of whirlwinds known as “dust devils” because of the dust they sometimes spew, or the generation of gravitational waves. whose origin is not yet well understood.

“Dust devils are more abundant in Jezero than anywhere else on Mars, and they can be quite large, forming whirlwinds over 100 meters in diameter. With MEDA we have been able to characterize their general aspects (size and abundance) not only reveal how these whirlwinds work,” says Ricardo Hueso, Lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering – Bilbao (EIB).

Meda also discovered the presence of storms thousands of kilometers away, very similar to terrestrial storms, as evidenced by images from Earth-orbiting satellites, moving along the edge of the Arctic cap, which were formed as a result of the deposition of carbonate ice.

Within the variety of phenomena studied, Meda was able to characterize in detail the changes in the atmosphere caused by one of the feared dust storms, such as the one that originated in early January 2022. Its passage over the rover led to sudden changes in temperature and pressure, accompanied by wind storms. Strong dust raises and hits the devices, damaging one of the wind sensors.

“MEDA provides high-resolution meteorological measurements that enable characterization of the Martian atmosphere, for the first time, from local scales at distances of up to a few metres, as well as at global scales of the planet by gathering information about what is happening thousands of kilometers away. All of this will lead to an understanding better for the Martian climate and improve the predictive models we use,” says Sanchez-La Vega.

more information:
JA Rodriguez-Manfredi et al, Diverse meteorology of the Jezero crater during the first 250 sols of Perseverance on Mars, Natural Earth Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-022-01084-0

the quote: Rich Meteorology Study of Mars in Detail from the Perseverance Rover (2023, January 18), Retrieved January 19, 2023 from

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