London, September 17 (ANI): The Phoenix lander's Telltale instrument has measured for the first time wind speeds and directions in the Mars polar region.
While these winds appeared to be dominated by turbulence, the highest wind speeds recorded of up to nearly 60 kilometers per hour coincided with the passing of weather systems, when also the number of dust devils increased by an order of magnitude.
The Telltale device consisted of a lightweight tube suspended on top of a meteorological mast, roughly two meters above the local surface.
The onboard camera continuously imaged the deflection of the tube in the wind, taking more than 7,500 images during the mission.
"Telltale has given us a wealth of information about the local Martian wind velocities and directions. At the Phoenix landing site, we were able to see meteorological changes caused by interactions between the dynamic north pole, where there are ever changing evaporation processes, and the Martian atmosphere," said Dr. Haraldur Gunnlaugsson.
Mars is typically a rather windy place and learning more about the planet's climatic conditions will contribute to the understanding of the Martian water cycle and the identification of areas on the red planet that could sustain life.
Local wind measurements by the Telltale instrument, amended with daily images of the whole northern hemisphere by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, have allowed astronomers to gain much deeper information on weather systems on Mars.
"We've seen some unexpected night-time temperature fluctuations and are starting to understand the possible ways dust is put into suspension in the Martian atmosphere. For example, we could see that some of the dust storms on Mars do not require the existence of high winds," said Dr. Gunnlaugsson.
Telltale was designed and constructed in Denmark at the Mars Simulation Laboratory at the Aarhus University as a part of theCanadian built meteorological package for Phoenix. (ANI)