Science

Mars dust storms may be behind earths water loss, scientists reveal

Mars dust storms may be behind earths water loss, scientists reveal”

If anything, the sudden blast of wind helped to clear off some annoying dust that had been collecting on the probe's solar panels. The benefit of that massive dust storm for scientists was that there were eight spacecraft orbiting or roving on the surface of the planet during the storm giving more data about Mars' global storms than we ever had in the past.

Following the incident, scientists worldwide are analyzing insights on how mega dust storms could have impacted ancient Martian water, climate, and winds, and how they could affect future solar power and weather, said a NASA press release.

On Feb. 1, the 65th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, InSight detected a passing wind vortex (also known as a dust devil if it picks up dust and becomes visible; InSight's cameras didn't catch the vortex in this case).

The February dust-cleaning event made only a slight difference for InSight's energy budget, boosting one solar panel's output by 0.7% and the other's by 2.7%. These whirlwinds aren't risky, and with no one on Mars to clear the dust off InSight's solar panels, these fortuitous events will have to suffice.

In time, data from dust cleanings could inform the design of solar-powered missions as well as research on how wind sculpts the landscape.

"It gives us a starting point for understanding how the wind is driving changes on the surface". The wind changed direction by 180 degrees, for example, while the wind speed suddenly jumped to 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour).

'It's been a tradition for Mars missions to capture sunrises and sunsets, ' said Doctor Maki in the NASA announcement.

The lander recorded wind speeds of 45 miles per hour (72 km/h) at the time; however, the pressure drop suggests that the winds may have been even stronger, but too turbulent to measure, they added. On both Mars and Earth, the highest levels of dust devil activity are usually seen between about noon and 3 p.m., when the intensity of sunlight is strongest and the ground is hot compared with the air above it.

The event happened during the early afternoon in Elysium Planitia, a region on the Martian equator.

The sun looks especially small because it's further away from Mars than the Earth so it is about two-thirds the size as seen on our planet. 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.



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