Metal detected in Mars atmosphere: NASA
Mars has electrically charged metal atoms high in its atmosphere, according to new data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft which can unveil previously invisible activity in the mysterious electrically charged ionosphere of the red planet.
MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) is exploring the Martian upper atmosphere to understand how the planet lost most of its air, transforming from the world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold desert planet. Understanding ionospheric activity may shed light on how the atmosphere on Mars is lost in space, researchers said.
“MAVEN has made the first direct detection of the permanent presence of metal ions in the ionosphere of a planet other than Earth,” said Joseph Grebowsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US. “Because metallic ions have long lifetimes and are transported far from their region of origin by neutral winds and electric fields, they can be used to infer motion in the ionosphere, similar to the way we use a lofted leaf to reveal which way the wind is blowing,” said Grebowsky.
The metal comes from a constant rain of tiny meteoroids onto the red planet. When a high-speed meteoroid hits the Martian atmosphere, …read more