Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists discover Mars’ atmosphere altered by solar flares

24.02.2006


New research shows X-ray bursts from the Sun cause dramatic alterations to the planet’s 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 planet’s ionosphere – the region of a planet’s atmosphere where the Sun’s 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 NASA’s 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.


"At Earth, the GOES satellites measure the Sun’s X-rays almost continuously," said Dr. Paul Withers of BU. "Our search of their large database discovered several cases of flares occurring just minutes before MGS detected enhancements in Mars’ ionosphere."

The extra electrons produced by the Sun’s X-rays cause subtle changes in how the MGS radiowaves travel towards Earth. Therefore, the team wanted to find several unambiguous case study events before announcing their findings.

The Radio Science Experiment on MGS has made observations of Mars’ ionosphere since its arrival there in late 1999. Its radio transmissions are received by NASA and then cast into scientifically meaningful data by Dr. David Hinson at Stanford University who provides open access to researchers worldwide via a website. "We needed Dr. Hinson’s expert advice to make sure that some odd changes in the MGS radio signal had not occurred just by chance," Dr. Withers added.

To confirm that the photons from these flares had sufficient fluxes to actually modify an ionosphere, additional evidence was sought using measurements on Earth. "During this period, the Sun, Earth and Mars were nearly in a straight line and thus the X-rays measured at Earth should have caused enhancements here as well as at Mars," Mendillo added.

Using several ionospheric radars spread over the globe, operated by scientists at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell, Professor Bodo Reinisch confirmed that the Sun’s X-rays caused equally impressive modifications to Earth’s ionosphere at the precise times required on those days.

"The science yield from this work will be in the new field of Comparative Atmospheres," Mendillo pointed out. "By that I mean studies of the same process in Nature, in this case making an ionosphere on two planets simultaneously, offer insights and constraints to models not always possible when studying that process on a single planet. The fifth member of our team, Professor Henry Rishbeth of the University of Southampton in England, provides the expertise in theory and modeling that will be the focus of our follow-up studies."

Kira Edler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bu.edu
http://sirius.bu.edu/data/press.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Light-emitting bubbles captured in the wild
28.02.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Scientists reach back in time to discover some of the most power-packed galaxies
28.02.2017 | Clemson University

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: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology offers fast peptide synthesis

28.02.2017 | Life Sciences

WSU research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries

28.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Who can find the fish that makes the best sound?

28.02.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>