And Now, the Weather (On Mars)
Mars rover engineers have begun publishing regular reports on the red planet's frigid climate, dust devils, and wild winds.
The Spanish scientists behind the rover Curiosity's onboard weather station—the Rover Environmental Monitoring Station, or REMS—say they want to keep ordinary folks apprised of what they're learning.
REMS instruments measure surrounding air temperature, ground temperature, wind speed, air pressure, dust levels, and circulation, allowing scientists to develop a pretty good picture of what's going on up there.
Martian weathermen Jorge Pla-García, Antonio Molina, and Javier Gómez Elvira of the Spanish National Center of Astrobiology analyze the enormous influx of data and translate it into reports that feel both alien and very familiar to readers of the morning newspaper.
Spring, for example, is dust season. "Dust is highly influential in the Martian atmosphere, causing most of its variability," the team writes in their July 2017 report. "The suspended dust particles have a double effect, retaining the infrared radiation coming from the ground but reflexing the incident visible radiation, providing an anti-greenhouse effect in this case. Because of that, nighttime temperature rises, while the daytime temperature decreases."
Weather superfans (we know you're out there) can download the REMS app for regular updates on Martian cloud cover, radiation index, and sunrise and sunset times. The reports offer more in-depth analysis of how these conditions came about and what they can tell us about our dry, chilly cosmic neighbor.
While it may not involve standing in the path of a hurricane, interplanetary weather watching can still be hard on its practitioners.
"We used to be on watch on Martian time," Pla-García told Atlas Obscura. "And a Martian day is 24 hours and 39 minutes long, so our work schedule was different every day. That included weekends, New Year's Eve, Thanksgiving, you name it."
The team has since transitioned to Earthling time. But that doesn't mean they're loafing on the job.
"We do it because it's the public's right," Pla-García says. "They fund us with their taxes, so they deserve to know what their money is being spent on!"
[h/t Atlas Obscura]