New research shows X-ray bursts from the Sun cause dramatic alterations to the planets ionosphere
Boston University astronomers announced today the first clear evidence that solar flares change the upper atmosphere of Mars. In an article published in the February 24th issue of the journal Science, the researchers describe how X-ray bursts from the Sun in April 2001 recorded by satellites near Earth reached Mars and caused dramatic enhancements to the planets ionosphere – the region of a planets atmosphere where the Suns ultraviolet and X-rays are absorbed by atoms and molecules. The measurements were made by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft at the Red Planet as it transmitted signals back to NASAs antenna sites back on Earth.
"On April 15th and 26th of 2001, radio signals from MGS showed that the martian ionosphere was unusually dense, and this was the clue that some extra production of ions and electrons had occurred," explained Michael Mendillo, professor of astronomy, who led the BU research team in its Center for Space Physics.
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