The US space agency NASA’s Curiosity rover has completed its second martian year last week and it has sent enough information to the scientists to know how weather patterns change on the Red Planet. Scientists now know when Mars witnesses seasons like winter, spring, summer, and autumn.
Curiosity Mars rover was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011, and it landed on Mars inside Gale Crater nearly four years ago on August 6, 2012. Although, the rover left our planet nearly four years ago, but it has seen only two Martian years as year on Mars is twice bigger than a year on Earth. Observing full cycles of Martian season for two times has given scientists clear idea of how seasonal changes take place on the Red Planet.
The team of scientists observing the weather patterns also noticed some seasonal effects that didn’t repeat during second season like levels of methane gas rose sharply at southern hemisphere during first autumn season but no such thing happened during second season.
Indian-origin scientist who is part of the NASA’s Curiosity Project, Ashwin Vasavasa said, “Curiosity’s weather station has made measurements nearly every hour of every day, more than 34 million so far.” He further added, “The duration is important because it is the second time through the seasons that lets us see repeated patterns.”
Scientists observed temperature, water vapours, pressure, amount of ultraviolet rays hitting the Martian Surface at the Gale Crater and found that seasonal repetitions do take place on the Red Planet.
While talking of temperature variations, scientists revealed that Rover Environment Monitoring Station (REMS) installed on the Curiosity has measured temperature between 15.9 degrees Celsius on a summer afternoon and minus 100 degrees Celsius on a winter night.
Also, Mars is nearly 10 times drier when compared to Earth. Very less amount of water vapours are present on the Red Planet. However, Martian surface is still a humid place and researchers are looking forward to find frost formation on the ground during winter nights.
Scientists call Martian day as ‘sol’. A Martian year is made up of 668.6 sols and the Curiosity rover started its 3rd year on May 11the after completed 1337 Martian sols.