Mars, our enigmatic next-door planetary neighbor, just keeps surprising us. Among its numerous riddles, from hints of liquid water to possible ancient microbes, there’s now another mystery on the table: Mars is gradually spinning faster. Yep, every year, Mars is turning up its speed!
Thanks to data from NASA’s InSight Mars lander, scientists discovered that Mars is spinning 4 milliarcseconds quicker every year. While that may sound super small (imagine a minuscule fraction of a millisecond less on a Martian day each year), it’s a significant clue about how Mars has evolved and where it might be going.
The InSight lander, which landed on Mars in 2018, packs a unique tool called RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment). Think of RISE like a radar gun for Mars’ speed. With its radio transponder and antennas, it chats with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Earth. They ping radio signals back and forth, and from those signals, scientists can detect shifts in radio frequency. These shifts show that Mars is, quite literally, speeding up its game.
Bruce Banerdt, InSight’s main man at JPL, is understandably stoked about the findings. “This latest precise measurement is thrilling,” he exclaimed. “It’s taken a long time to get a device like InSight to Mars, and results like this make every moment worth it.” Additionally, you can also read about- NASA’s CHAPEA-1 Mission
But why is Mars behaving this way? Well, the boffins have some guesses. One theory suggests it’s due to ice piling up in Mars’ polar areas. Another points to a phenomenon known as “post-glacial rebound.” That’s what happens when huge ice masses melt away, allowing the land to spring up a bit.
Even though InSight switched off in 2022, the data it provided will keep scientists busy. We’re certainly not done uncovering the secrets of our intriguing red neighbor. So, stay tuned for more Martian headlines!