Indian scientists make breakthrough discovery on solitary waves in Mars magnetosphere

The discovery about the Mars magnetosphere is a breakthrough for the scientific community and an opportunity for fresh explorations.

Earth’s magnetic shield preserves our planet’s atmosphere and habitability. Without it, Earth would resemble Mars. Mars has a weak residue of a magnetic field emanating from its crust, but it’s a feeble phenomenon that provides little protection.

The loss of its magnetosphere was catastrophic for Mars. A recent discovery about the magnetosphere of the Mars is a breakthrough for the scientific community and an opportunity for scientific explorations.

For the first time, a research team from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) has identified and reported the solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere with the help of high-resolution electric field data.

IIG is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of India. The data was recorded by Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument on the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft of NASA.

The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal, which states the analysis of 450 solitary wave pulses observed by the MAVEN spacecraft during its five passes around Mars in February 2015. The team is further exploring the role of these solitary waves in the particle dynamics in the Martian magnetosphere and whether such waves play any role in the loss of atmospheric ions on the Mars. 

Further exploring role of solitary waves in Mars magnetosphere

Frequent occurrences of solitary waves are not rare even in a weak and thin magnetosphere like that of Mars, according to experts, but they had remained hidden so far.

Researchers have now found that the magnetosphere is weak but highly dynamic and formed due to the direct interaction of solar winds with the Martian atmosphere.

Distinct electric field fluctuations that follow amplitude-phase relations

“Solitary waves are distinct electric field fluctuations (bipolar or monopolar) that follow constant amplitude-phase relations. Their shape and size are less affected during their propagation. These pulses are dominantly seen in the dawn and afternoon-dusk sectors at an altitude of 1000–3500 km around Mars,” the Ministry of Science & Technology said in a statement.

The MAVEN mission was launched in 2013. It is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere. The goal of this spacecraft is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.

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