NASA's Perseverance rover has been tracking the changes in Mars' atmosphere for the past 250 sols, or Martian days. The acquired data has been released in the rovers first detailed weather report.
Perseverance is equipped with several sensors, cameras and sensitive instruments which are all designed to gather to most accurate details about the conditions of the Red Planet. NASA's rover has been exploring Mars since it landed in the Jezero Crater in early 2021. Since then the rover has taken several samples of martian rock which will eventually be transported back to Earth for further analysis.
Many researchers are excited about the coming samples as they are set to undoubtedly unlock more in-depth knowledge about the geology of our red neighbor. This information will then be used to reduce the overall risk humans will endure when we begin our colonization. Perseverance for the past 250 sols, which are about 40 minutes longer than one 24-hour Earth day, has been collecting data on the pressure and temperature of Mars.
"The pressure and temperature of Mars' atmosphere oscillate with periods of the Martian solar day ... following the daily cycle of sunshine greatly influenced by the amount of dust and the presence of clouds in the atmosphere," a co-author of the report, Agustín Sánchez-Lavega of the Planetary Sciences Group at the University of the Basque Country in Spain.
This data was collected with the rover's Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) and has shown researchers that Mars has a much more dynamic atmosphere than previous thought. Perseverance measured the average air temperature at the Jezero crater to be -67 degrees Fahrenheit, or -55 degrees Celsius. Notably, air temperature can fluctuate drastically through day/night cycles as the rover found temperatures vary between 90 and 100 degrees, or 50 to 60 degrees Celsius.
The researchers explain that during the day the heat from sun begins to warm up the surface of the Mars and its lower atmosphere. This warming creates pockets of air that begin to rise and create turbulence that results in fluctuations in temperature, an increased presence in cloud cover and dust. When the sun goes down and night time begins this observed turbulence drops off and the air is able to settle, reducing the amount of martian dust flying around.
While on the surface of mars Perseverance also detected dust devils, whirlwinds of dust moving across the vacant plains of the Jezero Crater. Data indicates these dust devils are more abundant than anywhere else on Mars and can be up to 330 feet in diameter.
"The dust devils are more abundant at Jezero than elsewhere on Mars, and can be very large, forming whirlwinds more than 100 meters [330 feet] in diameter. With MEDA we have been able to characterize not only their general aspects [their size and abundance] but also to unravel how these whirlwinds function," Ricardo Hueso, also of the Planetary Sciences Group at the University of the Basque Country, said in the statement.