August 1, 2014.
Research was done in Space Sciences Laboratory at University of California Berkeley
Mars has no global magnetic field. Changes in the solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) can impact the upper atmosphere and induce currents in the ionosphere of Mars. During aerobraking maneuvers, Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) made over 1000 passes through Mars’s ionosphere. During these passes, MGS measured the local magnetic field. From these measurements, we can determine the ionospheric currents. We restrict our analysis to passes where the radial component of the magnetic field is nearly zero. This restriction, along with some assumptions about the gradients in the magnetic field, allows us to estimate the horizontal ionospheric currents. Additionally, we focus on the magnetic field data acquired over regions above negligible crustal magnetic fields in order to simplify the analysis. At a maximum altitude of 250 km, the Mars map was segmented to 30 by 30 degrees east longitude and latitude for analysis. We find that on the night side, where the solar zenith angle (SZA) lies between 130 to 180 degrees, only 4% of the data is usable for computing currents, that is the radial component of the magnetic field is nearly zero. We also find that near the terminator, where the SZA lies between 50 to 130 degrees, an average of 2% of the magnetic field profiles are usable to compute currents. The currents computed from these profiles can give us insights into how the changing solar wind and interplanetary magnetic field can affect the upper atmosphere of Mars. For example, induced currents can lead to Joule heating of the atmosphere potentially modifying the neutral dynamics.
The Sun and the Solar System
Space Sciences Laboratory at UC Berkeley (SSL)
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).