Mars Does Have a Magnetic Field of Sorts, 'Induced' by Solar Winds

They sort of look like someone has thrown spaghetti noodles onto someone's face.
Derya Ozdemir

A NASA spacecraft has mapped the electric currents around Mars for the first time and the trippy visual data hold clues as to why the red planet lost its atmosphere.

It is common knowledge that Mars doesn't have a global magnetic field that protects it from the endeavors of space; however, it has spots of local, induced magnetism. Thanks to the data gathered by the spacecraft, now we can take a look at the electric currents that are responsible for shaping these magnetic fields.


Data collected by MAVEN

A team of researchers who used NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft were able to determine how electric currents in the Martian atmosphere might be responsible for letting the gas in its atmosphere slip away.

Their research suggests that solar winds that are a constant flow from the Sun is the driving force behind the atmospheric escape of the Red Planet. The video below shows the psychedelic visualizations produced from the magnetic readings.

A 'faceful' of solar wind and currents

The team worked on five years of data from MAVEN to establish these visuals. They show electrical currents producing a double-looped structure around Mars, wrapping it in an almost hug that stretches through both the day and night side of it.

Mars Does Have a Magnetic Field of Sorts, 'Induced' by Solar Winds
Source: NASA/Goddard/MAVEN/CU Boulder/SVS/Cindy Starr

Robin Ramstad, experimental physicist and study's lead author, stated, "These currents play a fundamental role in the atmospheric loss that transformed Mars from a world that could have supported life into an inhospitable desert."

When these currents interact with the solar wind, they cause it to flow around Mars like "spaghetti noodles around a basketball."

Interplay between solar winds and electric currents

Apparently, what's interesting for the researchers is the detail of the interplay between the solar winds and the electric currents, and how energy is transferred between the upper atmosphere, the magnetosphere, and the solar wind. 

Ramstad stated, "Mars' atmosphere behaves a bit like a metal sphere closing an electric circuit. The currents flow in the upper atmosphere, with the strongest current layers persisting at 120-200 kilometers (75-124 miles) above the planet's surface." "With a single elegant operation, the strength and paths of the currents pop out of this map of the magnetic field."

These visualizations make for some psychedelic and trippy footage, but also, they might be able to tell the history of the Red Planet and how interactions within its own system evolved into its current state.

The study was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board