Martian weather reports courtesy of York science

The reddish-beige sky was clear, temperatures reached a high of -30 degrees C and a low of -80, and winds were out of the northeast at 20 kilometres an hour, wrote The Globe and Mail May 28 in a story about the first weather report from Mars, using equipment developed in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.

The weather reports will include humidity and visibility readings once other pieces of the equipment are activated, said Jim Whiteway, York professor and lead scientist for Canada’s contribution to the Phoenix mission.

He and his colleagues in the Faculty of Science & Engineering are also hoping to learn more about clouds and ice particles, and perhaps how water is cycled on the planet.

The Mars Phoenix science team compiled this Martian weather report based on the spacecraft’s first 18 hours of communication:

    • Mars Phoenix landing site
    • -30 C Clear skies
    • Low: -80 C in the early morning
    • High: -30 C in the afternoon
    • Average pressure: 0.855 kPa (less than 1/100 sea-level pressure on Earth – 101.325 kPa)
    • Wind speed: NE 20 km/h
  • Jim Whiteway says pressure and temperature instruments were turned on shortly after NASA’s Phoenix-Mars lander touched down on Sunday, wrote The Canadian Press (CP) May 28. Plans for the lander’s second day of activities were delayed by a communications issue, but officials say it is not a significant problem, wrote CP.
  • It was a sunny day to do some rock collecting on Mars yesterday, with light winds and not much blowing sand, wrote Canwest News Service May 28. The high was -30 C, but you’d want a warmer spacesuit to stay out late, because the low dropped to a chilly -80 C.

A Canada-US mission to Mars made a soft landing on Sunday night, and researchers at York University are thrilled that our $37-million weather station is up and running without a hitch.

"Our Canadian team has done an excellent job of giving us weather data," said Peter Smith of the University of Arizona, the chief scientist for Mars Phoenix. Sometime this morning, "they’ll give us their first measurements of cloud height."

Today the Canadian team plans to start running the special "lidar" (like radar, but using laser light), which will shine straight up to measure clouds, fog and dust in the thin atmosphere. For now, the first Canadian equipment ever to transmit data from another planet is the mundane-sounding P and T instrument (for pressure and temperature).

It did a stellar job on Mars Lander Day One, sending back data recorded over 19 hours: Temperatures from -30 C to -80 C, and air pressure of eight millibars, compared with an average of just over 1,000 at sea level on Earth, indicating a very thin atmosphere.

  • CBC News online, CP24 and City-TV also carried stories about the York Phoenix team’s weather report May 27.
  • Peter Taylor, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the weather on Mars, on Nunavut’s CFFB-AM Radio May 27.

Giving youth a chance

One of the major causes of youth homelessness is isolation but, together, communities can find solutions to give youth a chance for a brighter future, wrote the Welland Tribune May 28 in a story about a panel discussion in that city that included Professor Stephanie Baker Collins of York’s Atkinson School of Social Work.

In 2006, Start Me Up Niagara undertook a study on homeless employment access in the region, which focused on adults but showed some interesting information that relates to youth, said Baker Collins. That study discovered 42 per cent of homeless people surveyed had first become homeless at 16 years of age or younger. "Being homeless at a young age is more likely to put a person on a path to homelessness in the future," said Baker Collins.

On air

  • Francis Garon, political science professor at York’s Glendon campus, spoke about Ontario’s plans to ban drivers’ use of cellphones on Radio Canada Toronto’s “Au delà de la 401” program May 27.
  • Leo Panitch, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about British politics and the British Labour Party, on CTS-TV’s “Michael Coren Live" program May 27.