July 15, 2024

Mars rotates a little faster every year – a “historic experiment”

Mars rotates a little faster every year – a “historic experiment”

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Mars rotates a little faster each year, a new study using NASA data shows. There is also a second new discovery.

Pasadena – dates InSight space probe On the Mars They indicate that the Red Planet is spinning a little faster each year – and the Martian day is steadily shortening. The results of the search in the journal nature published. The study shows that the rotation of Mars on its axis is accelerating by about four parts of a second every year. As a result, the Martian day gets faster by a fraction of a millisecond each year.

The research team, led by lead author Sebastien Le Maistre, has yet to discover the cause, but the research group has some suspicions. The accumulation of ice on the polar ice caps, or land masses that rise after being buried by ice, may be one of the reasons for the speeding up of Mars’ rotation.

red planet
54,600,000 km
227,900,000 km
1 day 37 minutes
2 (Phobos and Deimos)
-153°C | -63°C | + 20 ° C

“A shift in a planet’s mass can cause it to accelerate, just like a skater spins with his arms outstretched and then pulls his arms inward again,” says one. communication NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory NASA to study.

New study: Mars rotates a little faster every year

The research team made the most accurate measurements of Mars’ rotation to date with the help of the RISE instrument on NASA’s InSight space probe. Although the spacecraft has been inactive since the end of 2022, the data it sent back to Earth by then is still valuable for research. “It’s really cool to get these latest measurements — and with such precision,” said NASA researcher Bruce Banerdt, principal investigator for the InSight mission. “I’ve been involved in the effort to get a geophysical station like InSight to Mars for a long time, and results like this make all the decades of work worthwhile.”

The RISE instrument consists of a radio transceiver and antennas. To determine the speed of Mars’ rotation, the researchers sent radio signals to InSight using NASA’s Deep Space Network. The RISE instrument reflects the signals back to Earth. There, the researchers were able to analyze how the frequency of the signal changes due to the so-called Doppler effect. The effect occurs with all signals when the distance between the sender and receiver changes over the duration of the signal.

Red Mars (artist’s impression). © imago / tuulijumala

The Doppler effect appears: Mars rotates around itself faster

On Earth, the best way to understand the Doppler effect is to listen for a siren to sound when an ambulance or police car overtakes you. As the vehicle approaches and recedes, the frequency and pitch of the signal changes. In the data from Mars, the researchers pay attention to the smallest fluctuations in the signals: “What we are looking for are fluctuations of only a few tens of centimeters over the course of a Martian year,” Le Meister explains. “It takes a very long time and a lot of data to be collected before we can even see these fluctuations.”

The research team analyzed data from the first 900 days of InSights on Mars. “It’s a historic experiment,” Le Maistre asserts. We have invested a lot of time and energy in setting up the experiment and have been waiting for these discoveries. But still, we’ve been surprised along the way — and it’s not over yet, because RISE still has a lot to unravel about Mars.”

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The exact radius of the Martian core has been determined

With the help of the “RISE” data, the research group was also able to make another discovery: they were able to measure the Martian core more accurately and reach a radius of 1,835 kilometers. The radius of the entire planet is 3390 kilometers – about half the radius of the Earth. “The RISE data show that the shape of the core cannot be explained by rotation alone,” says study co-author Attilio Revoldini. “This shape requires regions of slightly higher or lower density buried deeply in the mantle.” (Tab)

NASA rover Perseverance produces more oxygen on Mars since when.