Today, a paper published in Science documents for the first time the global wind circulation patterns within the upper environment of a planet, 120 to 300 kilometers above the surface. The findings are primarily based on local observations, moderately than indirect measurements, in contrast to many prior measurements taken on Earth’s higher atmosphere. However, it did not occur on Earth: it occurred on Mars. On high of that, all the information got here from an instrument and a spacecraft that weren’t initially designed to gather wind measurements.
In 2016, Mehdi Benna and his colleagues proposed to the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) challenge group that they remotely reprogram the MAVEN spacecraft and its Natural Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) instrument to do a singular experiment.
Initially, the MAVEN challenge group was reluctant to implement the modifications Benna and his colleagues requested. In spite of everything, MAVEN and NGIMS had been orbiting Mars since 2013; they usually have been working fairly nicely accumulating details about the composition of the Mars atmosphere. Benna, a planetary scientist, working out of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center with the UMBC Center for Space Sciences Technology (CSST), got here up with the windshield-wiper thought, whereas brainstorming methods to create an instrument that might accumulate details about international circulation patterns in Earth’s higher atmosphere.
Overall, the common circulation patterns from season to the season had been very stable on Mars. That is like saying that on the East Coast of the USA, all year long, weather methods typically flow from the West to the East in a predictable means.