Back in December 2022, NASA lost contact with its Mars explorer called InSight. This smart robot had been roaming around Mars for over four years, gathering important information. Even though we lost contact, scientists have been digging into the data it sent back, and guess what? They’ve discovered some amazing things!
Mars is Getting Speedier: A Surprising Discovery
A group of scientists, led by a person named Sebastien Le Maistre from Belgium, did some research using InSight’s special tool called RISE. They found out that Mars, the red planet, is actually spinning faster. Think of it like a top that’s spinning on the table, but the top is getting faster and faster. The measurements they took are super accurate, and they even learned that Mars wobbles a little, just like a spinning top.
RISE: A High-Tech Tool for Space Adventure
Le Maistre and the team used InSight’s RISE tool, which is like a space gadget with radio things and antennas. This tool helped them figure out that Mars’ spin is getting speedier. That small change means the length of a day on Mars is getting just a tiny bit shorter.
Bruce Banerdt, who’s a big part of the InSight team, said this discovery is really exciting. He’s been working on getting a robot on Mars for a long time, and now the hard work is paying off with amazing discoveries.
Why is Mars Speeding Up? The Mystery Deepens
Even though the speed-up isn’t big, scientists are scratching their heads about why this is happening. One idea is that ice is building up on Mars’ icy caps, or that the land is bouncing back after being squished under ice. Imagine you’re spinning around with your arms out, and when you bring them in, you spin faster. It’s kind of like that!
Radio Waves: The Key to Martian Mysteries
InSight isn’t the only space explorer that’s used radio waves to learn about Mars. Before it, there were other robots like Viking and Pathfinder that did similar things. But InSight had super cool upgrades, like better radio tech and NASA’s super network. This helped it gather data that’s five times more accurate than the older robots.
How Did They Figure Out Mars’ Spin?
When InSight was still working, scientists sent a special radio message to it using big antennas on Earth. InSight caught the message and sent it back to us. Scientists looked at the message and noticed tiny changes caused by Mars’ spin. It’s like when a siren on a police car sounds different as it comes toward you and then goes away. These changes helped them know how fast Mars is twirling.
Le Maistre said they were looking for changes that are really, really small, like moving a few centimeters in a whole Martian year. That’s a really long time! It took a lot of data and patience to find these changes.
A Big Step in Understanding Mars: More Surprises Await
Le Maistre thinks this is a big deal. He said they spent a lot of time getting ready for this special experiment, and they found things they didn’t even expect. And guess what? They’re not done yet! RISE still has loads more to teach us about Mars.
Exploring Mars’: What’s Inside?
The super accurate RISE tool didn’t only reveal the mystery of Mars’ speed-up. It also showed something called nutation, which is like a wobble that happens because of the hot stuff moving around inside Mars. This wobble helped scientists measure how big Mars’ core is—it’s around 1,835 kilometers wide. Plus, they learned more about the core’s shape and features.
In a world where distant planets hold secrets, human curiosity and smart tools like InSight light up the darkness. We’re taking tiny steps to understand Mars’ spin and the hidden treasures inside its core. Thanks to science pioneers like Sebastien Le Maistre and his team, we’re coming closer to solving the riddles Mars has kept hidden for ages.