Rover offers Mars' weather report
Posted September 5, 2012
The Madrid, Spain, based Centro de Astrobiología recently released a report on the first 20 days of weather data received from the Curiosity.
The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) is located on the neck-like mast of the rover. It has been monitoring temperature (ground and air), atmospheric pressure and wind conditions at Gale Crater near Mars' equator.
Mars and Earth are roughly in sync seasonally for now. It is the equivalent of late summer there as well. However, Mars' year is nearly twice the length of that on Earth. We will continue to pull away from Mars in the slow race around the sun and will see autumn and winter long before Curiosity.
It certainly feels like winter to Curiosity.
The latest report showed a daily high of 21 F and a low of -103 F. Highs temperatures occur, as expected around noon when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. It will be directly overhead at the autumnal equinox in about a month, nine days after Earth marks the same celestial milestone.
Winds have been pretty consistently measured at between 4 and 5 mph. Researchers are noting flows within Gale Crater itself as well as larger scale wind patterns similar to Earth's jet stream.
To date, the weather has been clear but this is expected to change. The rover won't see clouds like we see on Earth, the moisture content of the atmosphere just isn't sufficient. However, dust storms are expected to increase and their effect of the transparency of the atmosphere. That transparency is being monitored by a UV sensor in the REMS instrument measuring the amount of radiation hitting the rover. Curiosity's many cameras will capture changes in transparency.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems. You can follow him on twitter @rtphokie.