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 The taming of the light screw
22.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Struktur und Dynamik der Materie

nachricht Magnetic micro-boats
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung

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: The taming of the light screw

DESY and MPSD scientists create high-order harmonics from solids with controlled polarization states, taking advantage of both crystal symmetry and attosecond electronic dynamics. The newly demonstrated technique might find intriguing applications in petahertz electronics and for spectroscopic studies of novel quantum materials.

The nonlinear process of high-order harmonic generation (HHG) in gases is one of the cornerstones of attosecond science (an attosecond is a billionth of a...

Im Focus: Magnetic micro-boats

Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.

The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...

Im Focus: Self-healing coating made of corn starch makes small scratches disappear through heat

Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.

Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Solving the efficiency of Gram-negative bacteria

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Bacteria bide their time when antibiotics attack

22.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Open source software helps researchers extract key insights from huge sensor datasets

22.03.2019 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>