NASA mystery: Strange magnetic pulses at midnight baffle scientists studying Mars

NASA’s InSight lander has been collecting data from Mars since the end of November 2018. The NASA probe was designed to investigate the inner workings of the Red Planet by creating a 3D map of its interior and by measuring the planet’s seismicity. But the scientists analysing the treasure trove of information collected by InSight have uncovered an unusual set of data. The researchers found a series of magnetic pulses occurring every day around midnight, local time on Mars.

The Mars probe comes equipped with a sensitive magnetometer instrument to pick up variations in the planet’s and the lander’s magnetic field.

The instrument detected “long pulsation trains” lasting as long as two hours, with wave periods of just one minute.

The findings were presented in a paper at the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

The paper reads: “During nighttime conditions near midnight local time, long pulsation trains are occasionally detected in the magnetic field.

“These can last as long as two hours and have wave periods of longer than 1 minute.

“These waves are strongest in the north direction and weakest vertically.”

Long pulsation trains are occasionally detected in the magnetic field

C.T. Russell, et.al.

The source of the pulses is unknown but researchers want to investigate if they originate underground or on the surface.

Whatever the case may be, the findings paint a picture of a planet considerably different to our own.

Mars lost its natural magnetosphere billions of years ago, which exposed the Red Planet to the elements.

Harsh space radiation washed over the planet and turned it into a barren desert at a time when it more closely resembled Earth.

But thanks to InSight, researchers have found magnetic elements in the planet’s crust are about 10 times stronger than on Earth.

The remnants of Mars’ magnetosphere also extend from 60 miles to more than 250 miles above the planet.

For comparison, Earth’s magnetosphere extends as far as 40,000 miles into space.

The researchers believe all of the measurements have strong implications for future exploration efforts.

They wrote: “The strong magnetisation seen in the surface rocks indicates that much can be learned about the dynamics of the crust from magnetometers carried on rovers.

“We strongly encourage a cross-disciplinary approach to studying the surface of Mars.

“Mars magnetisation could revolutionise our understanding of the emplacement of the crust of Mars in much the same way as the magnetic surveys of the Earth’s oceans have revolutionised our understanding of terrestrial tectonics.

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