NASA’s data suggests that the InSight lander on Mars gathered, Mars is revolving faster than it once did.
The now-retired InSight was equipped with a variety of tools, including as antennae and the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment (RISE) radio transponder. During the mission’s first 900 days on Mars, the equipment was employed to monitor the planet’s rotation.
The length of a Martian day is being compressed by a tiny fraction of a millisecond per year, according to astronomers, who calculated that the planet’s rotation is increasing by around 4 milliarcseconds per year. A day on Mars is roughly 40 minutes longer than one on Earth.
The additional acceleration seems to be very slight, and scientists are unsure of its exact cause. They do, however, speculate that it might be caused by ice buildup at the Martian poles or by land masses rising after being covered in ice. This kind of change in a planet’s mass can speed up the planet’s rotation.
The findings were presented in a June article published in the journal Nature. They were based on an examination of InSight data shared before the mission ran out of power and terminated. After its solar panels’ ability to receive sunlight was obstructed by dust in December 2022, the InSight project stopped collecting data about Mars.
Scientists sent signals to RISE aboard InSight via the Deep Space Network, and RISE reflected the signal back to Earth. The transmitted signals made it possible for researchers to monitor minute frequency variations brought on by the Doppler shift, which determines how loud a siren sounds depending on how far away it is. The variations in frequency followed the rotation of the globe.
What is RISE
RISE is a continuation of a long line of Mars landers that have used radio waves for science, such as the Pathfinder lander in the late 1990s and the twin Viking landers in the 1970s. However, none of those missions had access to InSight’s cutting-edge radio equipment or its modifications to the Earth-based Deep Space Network antennas. Together, these improvements gave information that was around five times more precise than what the Viking landers had.
In the instance of InSight, researchers would use the Deep Space Network to beam a radio signal to the lander. The signal would then be returned by RISE.
The extra acceleration appears to be quite minor, and its precise explanation is unknown to scientists. However, they do make the assumption that it might be brought on by ice accumulation at the Martian poles or by rising land areas that had previously been covered in ice. The rotation of a planet can be accelerated by this type of mass change.