DISCUSSION: There is no doubt that as the global population continues to increase more and more with time in all four corners of the globe, there is an increasingly larger interest in mankind investigating other planets in terms of both the prospects of the past existence of organic life as well as the prospects of current and/or future organic life. Having said that, one of the biggest recent and ongoing missions for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) is the NASA Insight Mission to Mars in which a state-of-the-art research rover is studying various properties of the “Red Planet.”
More specifically, one of the tools which is functioning on-board this research rover lander happens to be an incredibly highly sensitive seismometer which was designed for picking up internal activity from within the planet’s core. However, a very neat and separate application of this highly sensitive seismometer has been the unique application of using it to recently observe and analyze the progression of air streams (i.e., wind) moving past the rover lander’s recent position. This was detected as a result of the Martian winds blowing past the rover lander’s solar panels and then having the minor movements applied to the rover lander being identified as Martian wind. The recording of this recent Martian wind which was observed is attached in the Tweet which is linked above (courtesy of the NASA Insight and NASA JPL Twitter accounts). This is neat since it just goes to show how there can be minor temperature and pressure gradients across various parts of Mars which could cause occasional breezes (i.e., something akin to what is found on Earth on a calm, sunny day).
This is a neat fact to combine with other upcoming findings from this ongoing NASA Mars Insight mission since this will allow NASA space and atmospheric research scientists to understand more about the current state as well as the past/ancient history of the Martian atmosphere. In addition, this information could also help to dissect as to whether Mars could now and/or in the future be a viable location for harboring life for mankind. There is still a tremendous amount of information which is yet to be garnered from this mission, but the one thing which is almost certain is the reality that there is a plethora of knowledge yet to be gained from this latest in series of past, current, and future research missions destined to study a variety of issues tied to the “Red Planet.”
To learn more about this Mars rover research mission in even greater detail, click here!
To learn more about other interesting space weather topics from the Global Weather and Climate Center, click here!
© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
An icy sunrise peaks over the Manzano Mountains in Albuquerque, NM on February 21, 2017.
Early last year, many Albuquerqueans were surprised to see a rainbow encircling the sun as it rose over the Manzano Mountains. Many forms of atmospheric optics, such as coronae, sun dogs, glories, and sun halos, are produced when light passes through tiny cloud droplets or ice crystals in upper-level cirrus clouds. Solar coronae (not to be mistaken with the sun’s outer atmosphere but rather an atmospheric optic) may consist of several colorful concentric rings around the celestial body and a bright central circle called the aureole.
When light travels through thin clouds made up of nearly uniform-sized, individual water droplets, aerosols, or even pollen, diffraction or scattering of light may occur by the outer “skins” of the droplets. Since light has different colors of different wavelengths, each color diffracts differently. This scattered light radiates outward from all points on the droplet’s surface, resulting in a circular diffraction pattern.
The angular size of the corona is also dependent upon the diameter of the cloud droplets (between 0.001-0.1 mm), hence smaller droplets result in larger coronae. (This can be properly described by Mie’s theory, in which the intensity of scattered light is proportional to the geometrical cross-section of the particle squared and inversely proportional to the fourth power of its wavelength). Sun halos and rainbows differ from coronae in the sense that they are formed by refraction from larger ice crystals and water droplets, respectively.
Coronae, sun dogs, glories, and sun halos are not an uncommon occurrence, but they aren’t something that you would expect to see every day.
To learn more about space weather and other atmospheric phenomena, please click here!
© 2018 Sharon Sullivan