A 31 March 2022 news item, Mars more volcanically active than we thought, marsquakes hidden in NASA Insight data suggest, states that in relation to measuring of seismic data,

A major source of noise comes from gusty winds, which pick up when the Sun warms the atmosphere and die down again about an hour before the Sun sets.

For this reason, most marsquakes have been detected during the quieter night and pre-sunset time, when the minute waveforms generated by small quakes aren't lost in the noise.

A NASA website concerning the instrumentation of the Mars Insight probe, states,

A suite of wind, pressure, temperature, and magnetic field sensors help fine-tune the seismometer's measurements. This helps it sense surface vibrations generated by weather systems such as dust storms, or by turbulence in the atmosphere due to phenomena such as dust devils, which can also generate seismic waves.

It appears Insight does not have a dedicated light detection device, which would be useful in determining whether the seismometer is measuring ground vibrations during the day or during the night time?

Output from the solar panels could easily provide this data. Are the solar panels used in this way and if not how do scientists know when it is day time or night?


2 Answers 2


how do scientists know when it is day time or night?

The position of Insight on Mars is known. the time of each data point is known. It is easy to use the position and the time to calculate the relative position of the sun, and thus determine if it is daytime, nighttime, or that last hour before sunset.


Yes, the currents recorded by the solar arrays during operations are used by engineers and scientists to get valuable situational awareness information. There are even publications released which detail some of the “observations” that can be made by the solar arrays (see this paper).

The linked paper highlights that in addition to determining local illumination conditions across seasonal and diurnal variations, the engineering data from the solar arrays can also be used to help infer the amount of dust suspended in the atmosphere and the rate that dust is deposited on the solar arrays (and if any natural “cleaning events” occur). This is important information for estimating the lifetime of the mission and planning future operations.

Remarkably, measuring increased currents around evening/twilight can also be used to infer the presence of noctilucent clouds “likely of water or carbon dioxide”!


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