Green Spot on Red Planet
Mars, the red planet, has a tiny green spot. Don’t get excited (or worried) that Martians have been discovered, though. The green spot is from earth.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped the pic as it flew overhead the InSight spacecraft. What we are all seeing is the greenish colour of InSight, as well as larger black areas which are its solar panels.
The small and very noticeable touch of white is a protective cover over InSight’s recently deployed seismometer. NASA is hoping to learn if Mars experiences quakes. (Presumably they cannot be called earthquakes if they happen on Mars.)
Also apparent is a large discoloured area of dirt caused by InSight’s landing in November. Scientists will be watching that closely as it will help them figure out Martian wind patterns based on how quickly it returns to a red colour.
Not pictured but also important to the mission is a heat flow probe. It is a super-sensitive thermometer that will measure the planet’s surface temperature as well as the heat coming from the ground.
Earlier data sent back from InSight includes the sound of martian wind. If you missed it, have a listen.
InSight can be followed on Twitter at @NASAInSight. It is InSight’s “personal” accounts so it uses the pronoun “I”. It is something that takes a bit of getting used to, but at a cost of $828.8 Million (USD) I won’t begrudge InSight for being self-aware.