Rosetta lander measures Mars' magnetic environment around close approach

Feb 26, 2007 byline
Rosetta lander measures Mars' magnetic environment around close approach
This graph, drawn thanks to data collected by the ROMAP instrument on board Rosetta's Philae lander, shows how the magnetic environment of Mars becomes complex when the solar wind, initially proceeding unperturbed at supersonic speed (left of the image), encounters the boundary region of the magnetosphere (bow shock), gets decelerated to subsonic speed and becomes turbulent. The data were collected around closest approach to the Red Planet during the Mars swingby on 25 February 2007. Time is ploted on the horizontal axis versus intensity of the magnetic field on the vertical axis. Credits: ROMAP / Philae / ESA Rosetta

In addition to acquiring incredible images of Mars during the planetary swingby earlier today, Rosetta and its lander Philae continue returning data from the Red Planet. The ROMAP instrument on board Philae measured the intensity of the peculiar magnetic field of Mars around closest approach.

Philae's ROMAP (Rosetta Lander Magnetometer and Plasma Monitor) instrument aims ultimately to study the local magnetic field of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and examine the intensity of the magnetic interaction between the comet and the solar wind in three spatial dimensions ('3D').

The cometary magnetic environment is similar to that of Mars. Mars doesn't have a global planetary magnetic field protecting it from the solar wind. Its complex and 'disturbed' magnetic environment is – in very simplified terms - the result of the combination of the weak magnetosphere surrounding the planet, under continuous attack from the solar wind, with the local magnetic spots (anomalies) that characterise the planet's crust.

The graph presented in this article plots time on the horizontal axis versus intensity of the magnetic field on the vertical axis.
It shows how the magnetic environment of Mars becomes complex when the solar wind, initially proceeding unperturbed at supersonic speed (left of the image), encounters the boundary region of the magnetosphere (bow shock), gets decelerated to subsonic speed and becomes turbulent. The turbulence continues in the ‘tail’ of the planet’s magnetosphere (right of the image).

These measurements are very important as they show how well the ROMAP instrument is performing. This data set is also almost unique, as the trajectory that Rosetta followed during the Mars swingby is very different from those usually followed by other spacecraft orbiting Mars: only the Russian probe Phobos-2 provided a similar insight into the plasma environment around Mars from this special viewpoint in space.

Source: ESA

Explore further: Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How Titan's haze help us understand life's origins

Aug 25, 2014

Where did life on Earth come from? There are several theories as to what might have happened. Maybe comets came bearing organic material, or life was transported from another planet such as Mars, or something ...

Construction to begin on 2016 NASA Mars lander

May 20, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA and its international partners now have the go-ahead to begin construction on a new Mars lander, after it completed a successful Mission Critical Design Review on Friday.

Recommended for you

Image: Rainbow aurora captured from space station

2 hours ago

Auroras occur when particle radiation from the Sun hits Earth's upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish blue light. ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has one of our planet's best views of this phenomenon, ...

Experts: Mystery fireball was Russian satellite

5 hours ago

People from New Mexico to Montana saw the bright object break apart as it moved slowly northward across the night sky. Witnesses described it as three "rocks" with glowing red and orange streaks.

User comments : 0