MAVEN mission identifies links in chain leading to atmospheric loss

MAVEN
NASA's MAVEN mission is observing the upper atmosphere of Mars to help understand climate change on the planet. MAVEN entered its science phase on Nov. 16, 2014. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Early discoveries by NASA's newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet's atmosphere to space over time.

The findings are among the first returns from NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which entered its science phase on Nov. 16. The observations reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a . They include the first comprehensive measurements of the composition of Mars' and electrically charged . The results also offer an unprecedented view of ions as they gain the energy that will lead to their to escape from the atmosphere.

"We are beginning to see the links in a chain that begins with solar-driven processes acting on gas in the upper atmosphere and leads to atmospheric loss," said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "Over the course of the full mission, we'll be able to fill in this picture and really understand the processes by which the atmosphere changed over time."

On each orbit around Mars, MAVEN dips into the ionosphere - the layer of ions and electrons extending from about 75 to 300 miles above the surface. This layer serves as a kind of shield around the planet, deflecting the solar wind, an intense stream of hot, high-energy particles from the sun.

Scientists have long thought that measurements of the solar wind could be made only before these particles hit the invisible boundary of the ionosphere. MAVEN's Solar Wind Ion Analyzer, however, has discovered a stream of solar-wind particles that are not deflected but penetrate deep into Mars' upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

Interactions in the upper atmosphere appear to transform this stream of ions into a neutral form that can penetrate to surprisingly low altitudes. Deep in the ionosphere, the stream emerges, almost Houdini-like, in ion form again. The reappearance of these ions, which retain characteristics of the pristine solar wind, provides a new way to track the properties of the and may make it easier to link drivers of atmospheric loss directly to activity in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere.

MAVEN's Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer is exploring the nature of the reservoir from which gases are escaping by conducting the first comprehensive analysis of the composition of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. These studies will help researchers make connections between the lower atmosphere, which controls climate, and the upper atmosphere, where the loss is occurring.

The instrument has measured the abundances of many gases in ion and neutral forms, revealing well-defined structure in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere, in contrast to the lower atmosphere, where gases are well-mixed. The variations in these abundances over time will provide new insights into the physics and chemistry of this region and have already provided evidence of significant upper-atmospheric "weather" that has not been measured in detail before.

New insight into how gases leave the atmosphere is being provided by the spacecraft's Suprathermal and Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) instrument. Within hours after being turned on at Mars, STATIC detected the "polar plume" of ions escaping from Mars. This measurement is important in determining the rate of atmospheric loss.

As the satellite dips down into the atmosphere, STATIC identifies the cold ionosphere at closest approach and subsequently measures the heating of this charged gas to escape velocities as MAVEN rises in altitude. The energized ions ultimately break free of the planet's gravity as they move along a plume that extends behind Mars.

The MAVEN spacecraft and its instruments have the full technical capability proposed in 2007 and are on track to carry out the primary science mission. The MAVEN team delivered the spacecraft to Mars on schedule, launching on the very day in 2013 projected by the team 5 years earlier. MAVEN was also delivered well under the confirmed budget established by NASA in 2010.

The team's success can be attributed to a focused science mission that matched the available funding and diligent management of resources. There were also minimal changes in requirements on the hardware or science capabilities that could have driven costs. It also reflects good coordination between the principal investigator; the project management at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center; the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; and the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters.

The entire project team contributed to MAVEN's success to date, including the management team, the spacecraft and science-instrument institutions, and the launch-services provider.

"The MAVEN spacecraft and its instruments are fully operational and well on their way to carrying out the primary science mission," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The management team's outstanding work enabled the project to be delivered on schedule and under budget."


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Dec 15, 2014
Maven can tell us the current processes by which atmospheric loss occurs, but can it tell us whether a great deal of this loss occurred over a very small time frame as the result of a cataclysmic cosmic event many thousands of years ago, such as the close fly-by of a large planetary mass? Can Maven rule this scenario out?

That is a pertinent question that should be answered, lest we draw the wrong conclusions. If we cannot answer that question, it may be that Maven, by whatever measure we gauge its success, may not give us the definitive summation of the historical atmospheric loss of Mars. In other words, observation could lead to an erroneous conclusion.

Dec 15, 2014
I think the Drake equation's factors have just hardened against some more of those extrasolar planets...

Dec 16, 2014
"We are beginning to see the links in a chain that begins with solar-driven processes...

Interactions in the upper atmosphere appear to transform this stream of ions into a neutral form that can penetrate to surprisingly low altitudes. Deep in the ionosphere, the stream emerges, almost Houdini-like, in ion form again.


Links in a chain is appropriate, all of the bodies in the solar system, down to dusty plasma, are connected to the Sun by these very same "chains". What they have detected is the electric current vortices penetrating the atmosphere quite possibly to the surface, often in the form of Marian dust devils.

http://www.nasa.g...404.html

If you can't envision this, this is similar to what NASA has found.

http://en.wikiped...ma_globe


Dec 16, 2014
No mention of electric vortices, because they don't exist, except in your warped and feverish imagination.


Well, needless to say what is deluded and warped here is your own mind that lacks any sense of imagination and ability to form a thought.

http://www.nasa.g...ust.html

Rube!

Dec 16, 2014
Uncountable thousands of you poor deluded EU saps are bleating electro-babble on the internet, desperate for the oxygen of publicity for your so-called theories, and you make utterly zero impact on real science.

Go Maven!
Uncountable thousands?!?! Lol, laughable 12 more like!

Exactly right with the rest though.

Dec 17, 2014
@cd - Congratulations, you managed to get something right! - about dust devils.

What your type and the astrophysical community refuses to realize is the ramifications of such a notion. If EU is right about the dust devils, then they will be right about so much more. The dust devil is an electric discharge phenomena, which requires the physics that describe such a possibility. Basically if they are correct about the dust devils, then they are correct about much of their other claims.

Dec 18, 2014
If EU is right about the dust devils, then they will be right about so much more
@CD
logical fallacy
this is your "grand canyon/moon crater" fallacy all over again-
as FSC points out so succinctly!
The dust devil is an electric discharge phenomena
where do you get that conclusion... the link says they have an electric phenomenon, NOT that they were creations of electric discharge
Two ingredients, present on both Earth and Mars, are necessary for a dust devil to form: rising air and a source of rotation," said Dr. Nilton Renno of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., a member of the research team and expert in the fluid dynamics of dust devils. "Wind shear, such as a change in wind direction and speed with altitude, is the source for rotation. Stronger updrafts have the potential to produce stronger dust devils, and larger wind shear produces larger dust devils,"
NOWHERE does it say the CAUSE of the devils is electric/plasma discharge

Dec 18, 2014
@cd

Basically if they are correct about the dust devils, then they are correct about much of their other claims.

Extrapolating from the particular to the general - hopelessly, laughably inadequate reasoning! From the http://en.wikiped...ference: Fallacy of composition - assumes what is true of the parts is true of the whole. This fallacy is also known as "arguing from the specific to the general"

Since Judy is so diligent in the workplace, this entire company must have an amazing work ethic.


Well, neither Judy nor her co-workers are electrons and ions, the physics of particles and charges is what we are discussing. The EU POV is that laboratory plasmas can model planetary/astrophysical plasmas, something which has already been proven to scale over 30 orders of magnitude.

If your intent is to argue the physics must be different only to cling to your beliefs, then I think the onus is on you to explain why.


Dec 18, 2014
@cd [contd]
the team's observations indicate smaller particles become negatively charged, while larger particles become positively charged. Dust devil winds carry the small, negatively charged particles high into the air, while the heavier, positively charged particles remain near the base of the dust devil. This separation of charges produces the large-scale electric field, like the positive and negative terminals on a battery. Since the electrified particles are in motion, and a magnetic field is just the result of moving electric charges, the dust devil also generates a magnetic field.

If martian dust grains have a variety of sizes and compositions, dust devils on Mars should become electrified the same way as their particles rub against each other, according to the team
so again, whereas they can have electric/magnetic fields, this in NO WAY states that the electric/magnetic fields are the CAUSE or GENERATOR of the devils

they arise per the above quote by FSC

Dec 18, 2014
the physics of particles and charges is what we are discussing
@CD
physics as well as your logical fallacy above! so it is every bit as relevant to the posts as your attempt at redirection from your mistake
The EU POV is that laboratory plasmas can model planetary/astrophysical plasmas
wrong
Again, you are claiming cause where none is available, and claiming proof of cause based upon a NASA article where there is no proof available
the devils are still formed just like here on earth, as noted by the link you also gave and FSC quoted above
a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground. As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
a presence of electricity doesn't mean that it is a cause

there are photons emitted from a light, too, but that don't make it a LASER, does it?

Dec 18, 2014
lastly cd
If your intent is to argue the physics must be different only to cling to your beliefs, then I think the onus is on you to explain why
you still haven't proven that the dust devils from either planet are caused by your plasma discharge, let alone proven or shown a link between your plasma and the dust devil cause

can dust devils be created in an environment devoid of electricity/magnetism?
can dust devils form an not have an electric/magnetic field? (IOW - with neutral particles that don't conduct electricity)

prove those are not possible and you will have a better leg to stand on

until then, you are barking up the wrong tree as you haven't shown a link to a cause supporting your assumptions and inferences that the cause is electric/magnetic

Dec 18, 2014
where do you get that conclusion... the link says they have an electric phenomenon, NOT that they were creations of electric discharge


Errrr... You are correct, and therein lies the disconnect between the physics of plasma cosmology and the pathetic explanations given in the article. It takes several paragraphs to explain the standard method of vortex creation, an alternative method only relies upon the interaction of charged particles, the rest is the result.

Note where they mention;

"NASA and university researchers discovered dust devils on Earth have unexpectedly large electric fields, in excess of 4,000 volts per meter, and can generate magnetic fields as well."

It's "unexpected" because saltation cannot create such large E fields, their theory doesn't match observation.

Dec 18, 2014
Dust devils can create an electric charge as the particles move and this in turn can produce a magnetic field, neither electric discharges nor magnetic fields produce dust devils.

Dec 21, 2014
Dust devils can create an electric charge as the particles move and this in turn can produce a magnetic field, neither electric discharges nor magnetic fields produce dust devils.
Dust devils are just dust devils. There is no difference between the little whirlwinds we saw on the school playground and the ones on Mars.

Dec 22, 2014
Dust devils can create an electric charge as the particles move and this in turn can produce a magnetic field, neither electric discharges nor magnetic fields produce dust devils.
Dust devils are just dust devils. There is no difference between the little whirlwinds we saw on the school playground and the ones on Mars.

Ignorance is bliss, and you sir are in a delightful ecstasy.

Dec 22, 2014
therein lies the disconnect between the physics of plasma cosmology and the pathetic explanations given in the article
@cd
personal conjecture not supported by evidence
...their theory doesn't match observation
ok, which specific theory and why?

more importantly, why do you think that your eu somehow demonstrates causation and can prove causation?

Here's the deal: you cannot prove that electricity/magnetism are the "cause" of the dust devils (dd's), only an "effect" of them
Also, there is no empirical evidence showing that elec/mag formation is the only way to form dd's
To do that, you would also have to include experiments that contain non-conducting material as the "dust" and if THAT creates a dd's then you can show correlatoin between elec/mag formation
BUT
we also already know that using basic heat/radiation and wind, we can CAUSE dd's so... you will also have to "disprove" the heat/wind/radiation phenomenon

sorry eu
i see epic failure for you

Dec 22, 2014
ok, which specific theory and why


Forget how to read Cap'n Stupid? It's all right there in those two lines.

"NASA and university researchers discovered dust devils on Earth have unexpectedly large electric fields, in excess of 4,000 volts per meter, and can generate magnetic fields as well."

It's "unexpected" because saltation cannot create such large E fields, their theory doesn't match observation.


They "expected" an electric field of a certain size and strength based upon their hypothesis of saltation. Do you know that word? Saltation? Basically their "cause" of the charge separation and resultant E field cannot support the actual observation. Their saltation hypothesis cannot explain the size and strength of the E field, this is what one would call falsification.

In the EU view, the "ion streams" and their already existent E fields along with the natural process of those ions equalizing to the Martian atmosphere creates wind and these dust devils.

Dec 23, 2014
Here's the deal: you cannot prove that electricity/magnetism are the "cause" of the dust devils (dd's), only an "effect" of them


"And even if one regards the electric fields as merely another postulate, it has the great advantage that it is the one postulate which, in my view, renders all the others unnecessary." C. E. R Bruce, Electric Fields in Space, Penguin Science, 1968

Dec 25, 2014
"And even if one regards the electric fields as merely another postulate, it has the great advantage that it is the one postulate which, in my view, renders all the others unnecessary." C. E. R Bruce, Electric Fields in Space, Penguin Science, 1968
@CD
and this is supposed to be proof how?

the above is no more evidence than your speculations on the cause... and it is no different than subscribing cause to a member of the paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits being utilised for battery in a cultural art form that generally involves movement of the body, often rhythmic, and to music
https://www.youtu...Qp-q1Y1s

this guy may like the postulates that involve electricity, like you do... unfortunately, it don't work like that... otherwise your eu idiot engineer con men would be rich and you would be head acolyte (or nailed to a cross) as senior proselytizing priest

Dec 25, 2014
In the EU view, the "ion streams" and their already existent E fields
@cd
and in the eu view, the grand canyon was blasted out by a discharge and the moon craters were pock-marked by tiny zit-styled discharges... none of which are true.

in your eu view, there is no room for observed phenomenon like freakin' asteroids and micro-meteorites slamming into the moon, or erosion by rivers, ice or anything else because you are so focused on your pseudoscience that you cannot see the forest due to retinal burn from dreaming up ways plasma can account for everything

that is why you post on every astrophysics article...

gotta get those believers in to pay for a new condo in Daytona for your con-men or what?
FSC had it right
Uncountable thousands of you poor deluded EU saps are bleating electro-babble on the internet, desperate for the oxygen of publicity for your so-called theories, and you make utterly zero impact on real science.

Go Maven!

Dec 26, 2014
in your eu view, there is no room for observed phenomenon like freakin' asteroids and micro-meteorites slamming into the moon, or erosion by rivers, ice or anything else

That's about completely moronic, as usual. It's only your own fanciful imagination which believes there is only one possible mechanism to achieve natural processes. Contrary to your belief that only gravity ever does anything, the EU view insists all the natural forces, including EM, must be considered.

Dec 26, 2014
That's about completely moronic, as usual. It's only your own fanciful imagination which believes there is only one possible mechanism to achieve natural processes
@CD
HA
and as usual, you try misdirection and lay the lies on thick!

I never said there were no other possible mechanisms, nor that there was only one mechanism even... I said that there is no evidence of your eu conclusions regarding grand canyon/moon craters/dirt devils

You are the one trying to state there is only one mechanism... and you di it every time there is anything even slightly related (or not) to the eu religion you proselytize
Contrary to your belief that only gravity ever does anything, the EU view insists all the natural forces, including EM, must be considered
Pull the other one! LOL
it's not like it isn't refuted by simply looking at all the past arguments
LMFAO

like i said to Mike:
you/eu use repetition just like any other cult/religion/pseudoscience - regardless of facts

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