InSight Mars lander detects strange magnetic pulses from ancient rocks

Brittany A. Roston - Feb 24, 2020, 2:57 pm CST
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InSight Mars lander detects strange magnetic pulses from ancient rocks

Half a dozen research papers detailing findings from the first year of the Mars InSight lander’s time on the Red Planet were published today. According to NASA, this research covers a number of topics, including ‘strange magnetic pulses,’ marsquakes, and dust devils, as well as a shallow crater found in the Martian region Elysium Planitia.

The InSight lander was launched in May 2018 and it landed on Mars in November of the same year. The spacecraft is equipped with a variety of scientific equipment, including sensors that can detect small quakes, wind, air pressure, temperature, and more. This hardware has been collecting data for more than a year, sending the info back to the lander’s team on Earth.

Though one of these instruments has experienced some problems, the overall scientific array has worked properly and made it possible to study new aspects of the Red Planet. As a result, the public has been able to listen to the sounds of wind on Mars, for example. InSight is also the first machine to bring a magnetometer to the planet’s surface, enabling scientists to detect the magnetic signals from magnetized ancient rocks.

That tool has itself yielded some interesting results, according to NASA. For example, the magnetometer found that signals coming from the region known as Homestead hollow are ten times stronger than anticipated, hinting at the presence of ancient rocks under the surface. Among other things, the instrument revealed that these signals ‘pulse’ around midnight and vary throughout the day and night.

Some information is still forthcoming, however. Last week, NASA revealed that its InSight team will use the lander’s robotic arm to push on the ‘mole,’ a 16-inch spike connected to a sensitive tether. Though this spike was designed to hammer itself into the ground, the chosen destination is covered by an unusually hard shell that it hasn’t been able to penetrate on its own.


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