Mystery Mars: Researchers discover strange magnetic phenomenon


The Mars mission "InSight" explores the red planet. In the mission data, researchers discover something astonishing: The magnetic field of the planet pulsates occasionally – at midnight.

Since November 2018, a geologist has been researching the planet Mars. However, the geologist is not a human, but a robot: "InSight" is a lander, which means that unlike rovers like "Curiosity" it does not move from the spot, but only examines the area in which it landed. Among other things, "InSight" will measure Marsquakes and help researchers to understand how planetary magnetic fields are created.

Among other things, "InSight" has been measuring the temperature of the planet since its landing, recording sounds from earthquakes and the Martian environment and recording Marsquakes. With the help of the records, researchers have now noticed something very unusual: The magnetic field of Mars begins to pulsate occasionally in a strange way at midnight. According to the scientists, this process takes up to two hours, with waves lasting more than a minute.

Magnetic field pulsating on Mars – punctually at midnight

A similar fluctuation in the strength or direction of the magnetic field also exists on Earth – triggered for example by solar wind. On Earth, nocturnal movements in the magnetic field are usually associated with aurora borealis. Strangely, however, the movements in the magnetic field of Mars always take place exactly at midnight.

The data previously sent by InSight * to Earth suggests that the magnetic activity of Mars is unusual. In addition to the strange midnight pulsation, the crust of Mars seems to be much more magnetic than the researchers had expected.

"We're getting a glimpse into the magnetic history of Mars like never before," says Paul Byrne, planetary geologist at North Carolina State University, "National Geographic." Using a magnetometer that placed "InSight" after landing on the surface of Mars, the scientists involved were able to measure that the magnetic field near the lander was about 20 times stronger than calculated from measurements taken from orbit.

Magnetism on Mars: Researchers recommend interdisciplinary research

The researchers, who have published the first information on the magnetic findings of "InSight" in an abstract (pdf), are pleased with their results and write: "The strong magnetization in the stones shows that magnetomet- rists can tell you a lot more about the Dynamics of the crust of Mars can learn. "Future Mars rovers could bring appropriate equipment on Mars, the researchers continue. "We strongly recommend an interdisciplinary approach to studying the Martian surface."

The mission "InSight" is intended to answer fundamental questions about the formation of earth-like planets by exploring Mars. The researchers are particularly interested in the question of how the interior of Mars developed and whether the planet still has a hot, liquid core. By answering these questions, researchers also want to better understand "what makes the Earth so special in comparison," said DLR scientist Tilman Spohn * at the start of the mission in the fall of 2018.

Mars mission "InSight" in focus

The lander "InSight" causes with the intermediate results, which are published by NASA, always causing a stir. This is how NASA last showed how a quake on Mars sounds *. Shortly after the landing of "InSight", general sound recordings of the Martian surface * were published. Also a small stone plays in connection with "InSight" a big role: It was moved on landing and was rolled about a meter wide – reason enough for Nasa to use as a template for a press release: The people in charge called the stone " Rolling Stone "* – named after the band that happened to be playing a concert near NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The JPL is based in Pasadena and manages the mission of InSight.

View into the universe

There is a lot going on in space: researchers have discovered a comet that comes from outside our solar system. 2I / Borisov is the second interstellar celestial body visiting our solar system. In addition, Asteroid (6478) Gault employs the astronomer scene: he has behaved extremely unusual in the eyes of researchers.

Even black holes are currently an issue: First, researchers have found that the black hole in the center of the Milky Way is suddenly very bright and voracious, also other scientists have discovered a system of three black holes, which are on a collision course with each other.

What happens when researchers find life on Mars? We are not prepared for that, says NASA chief scientist Jim Green. Another researcher is certain: NASA found life on Mars decades ago.

* is part of the nationwide Ippen digital editorial network

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