9 First Wind Recording
The InSight lander touched down on Mars in 2018. The high-tech device’s main purpose was to find out more about the planet’s interior. After arriving, the lander had some free time while adjusting to its new surroundings. Scientists decided to listen to the wind on Mars, and for the first time, they managed to do so successfully.
The ultrasensitive equipment and sensors picked up sounds audible to humans as well as frequencies in the infrasound range. NASA recorded both, and the result was eerie. One researcher described it as a mix of Earth’s wind, an ocean roaring, and something else that gave it an otherworldly quality.
The wind gusts came from the northwest and blew across the lander’s solar arrays at 24 kilometers per hour (15 mph) and 16 kilometers per hour (10 mph). The recordings were made by Insight’s air pressure sensor and seismometer. When the lander’s real job began, researchers reversed their wind study and used the sensor to cancel the windy commotion because it interfered with the seismometer’s ability to probe inside the planet.
8 Fire Opals
In 1911, a Martian meteorite hit Egypt close to the village of El Nakhla El Bahariya. Thus called Nakhla, the space rock found a home at the Natural History Museum in the UK. In 2015, scientists reexamined it and found a first for Mars. The meteorite contained fire opals.
On Earth, these breathtaking gems have a warm, flame-like tint. They only form in the ocean around hydrothermal vents. This type of opal is useful to scientists because it traps microbes during formation.
This opened another avenue for looking for life on Mars. Previously, surface samples from the Red Planet suggested that opals could form in certain regions, but Nakhla provided the first direct gems.
Under a powerful microscope, the Martian opals showed that they were a couple of million or billion years old and very similar to Earth’s. Unfortunately, the slivers were too small to look for life. Future expeditions could target Mars’s opal regions for larger samples.