Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Holiday weather on Mars

13.08.2003


ESA’s Mars Express is due to arrive at Mars in December 2003, and its Beagle 2 lander will be making a touchdown in the middle of the Martian winter. Will it see a ’’white Christmas’’ on the Red Planet? Also, if humans one day go to Mars, would they need to take a sunscreen?



Over its four-year lifetime, Mars Express will be returning data to refine the latest computer models of the Martian climate. It will be closely watching the clouds, fog, dust devils, and storms, looking for clues to explain the climate changes on Mars, now and in the past, and to better prepare us for future missions.
ESA scientists are already working to make sure that future missions to Mars arrive safely, and that future human explorers know what kind of weather to expect. They have developed a global atmospheric circulation model for Mars, which uses the same principles as those used to predict weather on Earth. Weather data sent back from Mars Express will help us to perfect these Martian weather forecasts.

This winter, the weather will be similar to that of the Earth, but colder. Mars Express will experience cold, cloudy mornings and cool, hazy afternoons. Some of the clouds could be made of water-ice crystals, but most clouds are made of crystals of carbon dioxide, or ’’dry ice’’. Temperatures will fall below –125°C but, because there is not enough moisture in the atmosphere to produce a significant amount of snow, Beagle 2 itself will not see a ’’white Christmas’’.



One of the main investigations carried out by Mars Express will be the global study of the atmospheric circulation and composition. Its instruments will also search for water, from just below the surface to the upper reaches of the atmosphere. ESA scientists hope that the instruments on board Mars Express will detect the presence of water below the surface, and may answer the question of whether there has ever been life on Mars.

Like Earth, Mars has a summer season too, but this is very different from the heatwaves that many of us are now experiencing in Europe. If you are on vacation, spare a thought for a future holidaymaker on Mars. With maximum temperatures reaching only 0°C, and plunging to –80°C at night, this is as cold as Antarctica in winter.

However, the summer temperatures do melt the carbon dioxide ice that make up the polar ice caps, and the atmosphere gets thicker. This raises the typical air density to about that of Earth’’s atmosphere at 25 000 metres where only the highest-flying research aircraft have ventured.

However, even this atmosphere is still too thin to protect us from the incoming radiation from space, such as ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays, or charged particles such as protons and electrons. On this dry, cold world, human holidaymakers will have a different set of weather concerns, not least exposure to these harshest elements of space weather.

Unlike Earth, which sits inside a protective magnetic shield called the magnetosphere, Mars does not have a global magnetic field to protect it from solar flares and cosmic rays. Solar protons pose the biggest threat to us because they ionise molecules along their tracks. These can be very damaging when passing through humans and they pose a long-term health risk.

Scientists do not yet know why Mars’’s magnetic field disappeared about 4000 million years ago. Since then, the solar wind has gradually eroded the Martian atmosphere so that today it is less than 1% as thick as that of the Earth.

With radiation hazards, tissue damage and sunburn, Mars sounds like a dangerous place to go on holiday. You can leave your umbrella on Earth, but remember to take your Geiger counter

Monica Talevi | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/export/esaSC/SEM68PYO4HD_index_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors
20.07.2017 | The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

nachricht Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information
19.07.2017 | Universität Basel

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: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

Im Focus: Laser-cooled ions contribute to better understanding of friction

Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision

Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

Leipzig HTP-Forum discusses "hydrothermal processes" as a key technology for a biobased economy

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers create new technique for manipulating polarization of terahertz radiation

20.07.2017 | Information Technology

High-tech sensing illuminates concrete stress testing

20.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

First direct observation and measurement of ultra-fast moving vortices in superconductors

20.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>