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 Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope
13.12.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University

nachricht Columbia engineers create artificial graphene in a nanofabricated semiconductor structure
13.12.2017 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

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: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A whole-body approach to understanding chemosensory cells

13.12.2017 | Health and Medicine

Water without windows: Capturing water vapor inside an electron microscope

13.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cellular Self-Digestion Process Triggers Autoimmune Disease

13.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>