Mars' atmosphere behaves as single interconnected system, study says

A new study reveals that Mars' atmosphere acts as one interconnected system.
By Tyler MacDonald | Jul 19, 2018
Research using a decade of data obtained from the ESA's Mars Express reveals signs that the atmosphere of the Red Planet acts as a single, interconnected system, with both lower- and mid-layer processes affecting those found higher up.

Understanding the atmosphere or Mars is key for advancing our knowledge of planetary science and bettering our chances of one day landing on martian soil.

"The lower and middle levels of Mars' atmosphere appear to be coupled to the upper levels: there's a clear link between them throughout the martian year," Beatriz Snchez-Cano, lead author of the study from the University of Leicester, UK.

"We found this link by tracking the amount of electrons in the upper atmosphere a property that has been measured by the MARSIS radar for over a decade across different seasons, areas of Mars, times of day, and more and correlating it with the atmospheric parameters measured by other instruments on Mars Express."

The data examined the fluctuating number of charged particles in Mars' upper atmosphere, which are driven by changes in solar activity and illumination, as well as the shifting density and composition of the atmosphere.

"We discovered a surprising and significant increase in the amount of charged particles in the upper atmosphere during springtime in the Northern hemisphere, which is when the mass in the lower atmosphere is growing as ice sublimates from the northern polar cap,"Snchez-Cano said.

"Mars Express is still going strong, with one of its current key objectives being to explore exactly how the martian atmosphere behaves, and how different layers of it are connected to one another," said Dmitri Titov, an ESA Mars Express Project Scientist.

"This wealth of comprehensive and complementary observations by different instruments on Mars Express makes studies like this one possible and, together with ESA's Trace Gas Orbiter and NASA's MAVEN mission, is helping us to unravel the secrets of the martian atmosphere," he added.

The findings were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

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