Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Phobos Found to Have Complex Electrical Environment

Article Written By: Kyle Tam


 A new NASA study has shown that the solar wind - the stream of electrically charged particles emitted by the sun - creates a complex electrical environment on Phobos, one of Mar's two moons. This could prove a problem for future missions involving Phobos as a potential initial base in the exploration of the Red Planet.
 Since Phobos has no atmosphere, no magnetosphere, and it orbits closely to Mars, it plows directly through streams of solar wind, allowing the moon to absorb electrically charged particles on its dayside. This creates a void on its nightside. This allows negatively charged electrons from the solar wind to accumulate in this void and statically charge the moon's night side.
 "We found that astronauts or rovers could accumulate significant electric charges when traversing the night side of Phobos — the side facing Mars during the Martian day," said William Farrell, lead author of the study from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, in a statement. "While we don't expect these charges to be large enough to injure an astronaut, they are potentially large enough to affect sensitive equipment, so we would need to design spacesuits and equipment that minimizes any charging hazard."
 "We found that excess charge builds up in these regions during all solar wind conditions, but the charging effect was especially severe in the wake of solar eruptions like coronal mass ejections, which are dense, fast gusts of solar wind."
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