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Moon and Mars

For most of the United States, the winds tend to be pretty calm at this time of year, even in the Great Plains. On the “plains of paradise” of Mars, though, summer is the windiest time of year. As measured by the InSight lander, the winds are about five miles per hour faster in summer than in winter.

InSight is designed to study the interior of Mars. It’s using a seismometer to measure “marsquakes.” And it’s been trying to deploy a probe to measure temperatures below the surface. But it also carries a small weather station. The station measures temperature and pressure, plus the speed and direction of the wind.

InSight sits on a volcanic plain, known as Elysium Planitia. There are no mountains or canyons around, so there’s nothing to obstruct the winds.

InSight’s readings show that the wind is strongest in the morning, not long after sunrise. And it’s weakest not long after sunset. And it’s also stronger in summer — an average of about 13 miles per hour, versus about eight miles per hour in winter.

The most powerful wind gust was recorded during a big dust storm — about 70 miles per hour. The Martian atmosphere is so thin, though, that if you were standing on Mars you’d barely feel it — a thin breeze on the Red Planet.

And Mars teams up with the Moon tonight. The planet is quite close to the Moon as they climb into good view, around midnight, and just as close at first light. Mars looks like a bright orange star.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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