NASA's MAVEN detects invisible 'magnetic tail' around Mars; could be destroying Martian atmosphere

A new discovery by NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission spacecraft (MAVEN) has revealed the remnants of the Red Planet's magnetic field.

A rendering of the current Mars atmosphere and what it could have been earlier. Image credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center

A rendering of the current Mars atmosphere and what it could have been earlier. Image credit: NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center

While the field is invisible to the naked eye, it is said to have taken the form of a rotating tail one that had been formed over time because of the solar winds that have been stripping the planet of its atmosphere, allowing gases to escape into space.

Launched in 2013, MAVEN has been on a mission to trace the climate history of Mars and to figure out whether the planet may have sustained life in the past.

According to the new research, the 'magnetotail' has been caused by the twisted interaction with solar wind. Ones that have been whipping the planet off its atmosphere over time, resulting in a thin atmosphere, which allows most of its gases to escape. Mars' magnetotail was formed when "magnetic fields carried by solar wind join with the magnetic fields embedded in the Martian surface, in a process that has been called 'magnetic reconnection'."

The 'Magnetotail' or magnetic tail caused by a process called "magnetic reconnection". Image credit: Anil Rao/Univ. of Colorado, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The 'Magnetotail' or magnetic tail caused by a process called "magnetic reconnection". Image credit: Anil Rao/Univ. of Colorado, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The research was presented by on 19 October during the 49th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in Provo, Utah. It was presented by Gina DiBraccio, project scientist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

“We found that Mars’ magnetic tail, or magnetotail, is unique in the solar system,” said DiBraccio. “It’s not like the magnetotail found at Venus, a planet with no magnetic field of its own, nor is it like Earth’s, which is surrounded by its own internally generated magnetic field. Instead, it is a hybrid between the two.” she added.

Mars had lost its global magnetic field billions of years ago. What remains today is a "fossil" of the magnetic fields in certain regions of the Red Planet.


Published Date: Oct 23, 2017 07:14 am | Updated Date: Oct 23, 2017 07:16 am