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Curiosity Rover measures radiation and wind on Mars

Washington, Nov 16 (): Curiosity rover of NASA has been lately investigating the radiation and wind on Mars, which provides data on some distinctive Martian weather occurrences.

The main objective of the probe on the planet, Mars are to search for marks of ancient inhabitability. Ashwin Vasavada, geophysicist and Curiosity project’s deputy scientist, in a press conference said with the Curiosity, they have very important goals about studying modern environment of Mars, which is said to be a dynamic one.

The earlier Mars probes, like Opportunity and Spirit, bounced the ground making use of expandable air-bag like system that were required to roll through a quite flat surface. But, Curiosity’s additional accurate landing systems allowed rover to also land in areas with heavy slopes, which appear to have more active wind patterns.

These wind patterns were measured by rover with its REMS (Rover Environmental Monitoring Station) and has found, more like Earth’s hilly places, Gale crater also has heavy up-slope winds during day time and at nights they have down-slope winds. Though Curiosity has not taken any images of them yet, the rover’s wind sensors seem to show that winds are often flowing by the rover.

The pressure sensor of REMS also has been examining how the atmospheric pressure on Mars changes seasonally. Curiosity landed on Mars when the atmospheric pressure was in its lowest level but as the springtime comes in Southern Hemisphere, the planet’s huge dry ice cap is vapourized off with carbon dioxide and thus thickening atmosphere.

The thick atmosphere of Earth is quite unperturbed by such activities at the poles but such activities causes the atmosphere of Mars to change about 30 % from season to season. Now, scientists are very eager to look at these changes from ground to form better models on the atmosphere of Mars.

Claire Newman, planetary scientist from Ashima Research, who is a collaborator on REMS instrument said if they could find more about climate and weather on present Mars, it would give more information for calculating how the Red planet looked in past.

Radiation was also monitored by Curiosity during its visit on Mars using its RAD (Radiation Assessment Detector). The first radiation measurements taken on Martian surface have revealed that the radiation varies by 3-5 % each day on Mars.

When Martian atmosphere condenses during night, it becomes more effective at protecting against the ultraviolet radiation coming from interplanetary space and the sun.

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