Monday, October 23, 2017

Twisted Magnetic Tail Discovered Hidden Behind Mars

 Researchers using NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft have found an invisible, twisted magnetic tail trailing behind Mars as it orbits the Sun. Caused by the effects of rushing solar winds, this magnetic tail could explain more about how the Martian atmosphere escapes into space.
 "We found that Mars' magnetic tail, or magnetotail, is unique in the Solar System," said team member Gina DiBraccio."It's not like the magnetotail found at Venus, a planet with no magnetic field of its own, nor is it like Earth's, which is surrounded by its own internally generated magnetic field. Instead, it is a hybrid between the two."
 Although the solar winds are thought to have stripped away much of the Martian atmosphere billions of years ago, there are still leftover regions of magnetism present on certain parts of Mars. When these solar winds (which carry their own magnetic fields) hit a region on Mars oriented in the opposite direction, it causes an effect called magnetic reconnection.
 "Our model predicted that magnetic reconnection will cause the Martian magnetotail to twist 45 degrees from what's expected based on the direction of the magnetic field carried by the solar wind," says DiBraccio."When we compared those predictions to MAVEN data on the directions of the Martian and solar wind magnetic fields, they were in very good agreement."
 Essentially, the magnetotail allows the particles that make up Mar's thin atmosphere to follow a path off of the planet, using energy created by the magnetic reconnection.

Read more about this fascinating story at:
Image Credit: Anil Rao/Univ. of Colorado/MAVEN/NASA GSFC

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