SCIENTISTS studying Mars have been left stumped after detecting a series of mystery magnetic pulses.
Since 2018, Nasa’s cutting-edge InSight capsule, has been using a so-called seismometer to study the core of the red planet in more detail than has been done before.
The InSight capsule is currently studying Mars in more depth than has ever been done before[/caption]
The probe has found patterns in the red planet’s magnetic field that scientists are not yet able to explain[/caption]
The mission will measure the flow of heat in the planet’s interior, estimate the size and make-up of its core, and investigate whether there is any earthquake activity.
A team from the University of California have now attended a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society to present their preliminary findings, including some they are currently unable to explain.
An orbiter in 1997 was able to measure the magnetic field of Mars’s crust from between 60 and 250 miles in the air, but the latest mission, which includes the first magnetometer placed on the planet’s surface, detected a field 20 times stronger than previously measured.
The probe also found pulses – changes in the strength or direction of the field – scientists had not been expecting.
The pulses themselves are not unusual, and in fact are a common occurrence on Earth, but the time at which they happened – local midnight – was.
InSight is currently near Mars’s equator, and in the equivalent position on Earth, at that time of night, those pulses are not detected.
Late-night pulsations on Earth tend to happen at higher latitudes, and are linked to the northern and southern lights.
The reason for the difference is not yet known, but at least on theory has been suggested.
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Mars no longer has a global magnetic field as strong as Earth’s, but it is surrounded by a weak magnetic bubble created by the interaction of the solar wind – radiation from the sun – with the planet’s light atmosphere.
But the bubble is not spherical, and it is thought the pulses being picked up by the detector could be explained by different parts of the bubble passing over InSight.
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