Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

And now the weather ... on Mars

03.07.2002


Blinding dust storms can seriously ruin your plans for a landing on Mars. ESA is adapting the global climate models that we use to forecast our weather on Earth for the turbulent conditions that Mars offers its future visitors.



You could hardly call the weather on Mars pleasant, and presently it is far from predictable. As well as having an average surface temperature of -63°C, and a thin, inhospitable atmosphere of mainly carbon dioxide, last year, a springtime dust storm smothered the entire planet for months. There are also dust devils, which are swirling columns of dust that can reach several kilometres in height that frequently race across the barren surface. Such severe and dusty weather conditions can interfere with the manoeuvres made by spacecraft as they enter an orbit around the planet. For a craft landing on the surface, scientific investigations would have to be put on hold until the weather got better.

Like all travellers, ESA scientists want to make sure that the weather is good when future missions arrive on Mars. They have developed a global atmospheric circulation model for Mars, which uses the same principles as those developed for Earth`s erratic weather patterns.


Here on Earth, it is water that is the driving force behind our weather. On Mars, where there is only a tiny amount of water vapour from its north pole in summer, dust takes over the role, heating the atmosphere by absorbing sunlight. Since the atmosphere on Mars is so thin and there are no oceans on the surface to store the heat from the Sun, temperatures rise and fall more quickly and dramatically because of surface changes and atmospheric heating by the Sun.

Similarly to Earth`s weather, hot air rising at the equator is replaced by cooler air, giving rise to trade winds which stir up the Martian dust, provoking the small storms that can merge to form the monster tempests.

The climate models formulated by ESA scientists show us the pattern of the storms throughout the Martian year, but the mystery remains why some years are dustier than others. Mars Express, the ESA mission to the Red Planet that is due to arrive in December 2003, will be sending back data that could help us solve this mystery and perfect our weather maps of Mars. The mission has been timed to arrive at Mars at the end of the Martian winter in the northern hemisphere, making it highly unlikely that there is a dust storm at the time of arrival.

A super-resolution camera will take more accurate and detailed images of the Martian atmosphere than ever before, imaging the entire planet in full colour, 3D, and at high resolution. Two other instruments will take vital measurements of the dust, atmospheric gases, and surface composition.

Over its four-year lifetime, Mars Express will be closely watching the clouds, fog, dust devils, and storms, looking for clues to explain the climate changes on Mars, now and in the past. The data it returns will help to check and refine the new Martian global climate models so that future missions make sure they arrive there during the high season.

Monica Talevi | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaCP/ESAPWZJE43D_index_0.html

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future
27.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Penn researchers quantify the changes that lightning inspires in rock
27.04.2017 | University of Pennsylvania

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>