Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Measuring Mars: The MAVEN Magnetometer

27.03.2013
When the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission begins its journey to the Red Planet in 2013, it will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Scheduled for launch in late 2013, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

The goal of MAVEN is to determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.

By measuring the current rate of escape to space and gathering enough information about the relevant processes, scientists will be able to infer how the planet’s atmosphere evolved.

The trip to Mars takes 10 months, and MAVEN will go into orbit around the planet in September 2014.

The Goddard-built MAVEN magnetometer will be a sensitive tool investigating what remains of the Red Planet’s magnetic "shield." It will play a key role in studying the planet’s atmosphere and interactions with solar wind, helping answer the question of why a planet once thought to have an abundance of liquid water became a frozen desert.

“The MAVEN magnetometer is key to unraveling the nature of the interactions between the solar wind and the planet,” said MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky from University of Colorado at Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (CU/LASP).

The magnetometer will measure the planet’s magnetic field through a series of coils, each containing a magnetic ring wrapped around a metal core. The sensors, known as "flux gates," are driven in and out of saturation by applied magnetic fields.

If there is no ambient magnetic field, the sensors remain balanced. If there is an ambient field present, the sensors will go into saturation more quickly in one direction than the other. It’s the imbalance that reveals the presence of an ambient field.

“A magnetometer is like an electronic compass,” said Jack Connerney, mission co-investigator at Goddard. “But we measure the strength, as well as the direction, of the magnetic field.”

The importance of studying the planet’s magnetic field is rooted in the theory that Mars lost its global magnetic field billions of years ago, allowing the solar wind to strip the atmosphere and dry out the planet.

Unlike Earth’s global magnetic field, which surrounds the entire planet, Mars only has patches of magnetic field left in its crust. This can create pockets of atmosphere that are protected against solar wind and others that are left vulnerable.

By measuring sections of the planet’s magnetic field, the magnetometer could help scientists create a bigger picture of the planet’s overall atmosphere.

“The magnetometer helps us see where the atmosphere is protected by mini-magnetospheres and where it’s open to solar wind,” Connerney said. “We can study the solar wind impact and how efficient it is at stripping the atmosphere.”

The magnetometer is one of six instruments that make up the Particles and Fields Package, being assembled by team members at the University of California, Berkeley. The magnetometer works with the other instruments from this package to gather data throughout the course of the projected yearlong orbit around the planet.

The spacecraft will go into orbit and pass closely over the planet’s surface and then move further away to study solar wind beyond the planet’s influence.

The magnetometer is a very sensitive instrument, so engineers have to work to ensure the instrument doesn’t accidentally measure the spacecraft’s magnetic field instead of the one the planet produces.

“We have to go to great extremes to be sure that we have minimized any magnetic fields from the spacecraft,” Jakosky said. “We are working hard to build a very ‘magnetically clean’ spacecraft that will meet our needs with regard to the magnetometer.”

The MAVEN principal investigator comes from CU/LASP. The university provides science operations, is building science instruments, and leads education/public outreach. NASA Goddard manages the project and is building two of the science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin of Littleton, Colo., is building the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory is building science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., provides navigation support, the Deep Space Network, and the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations. Claire De Saravia

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Nancy Neal-Jones | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/maven/news/magnetometer.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers
18.01.2017 | Penn State

nachricht Studying fundamental particles in materials
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>