MAVEN and the Mars Atmosphere

MAVEN Mars Mission

Exploring the atmosphere of Mars

The MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer - Image Credit:  University of Colorado at Boulder LASP

The MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer – Image Credit:
University of Colorado at Boulder LASP

On 11/18/2013 NASA sent the Mars satellite Maven to start orbiting mars. It will reach the planet on September 21, 2014 with the purpose to monitor the upper atmosphere of Mars. This will become extremely important in October of 2014 as when a comet called 2013 A1 Sliding Spring will ‘buzz’ Mars coming 10 times closer than any comet has ever gotten to Earth. The close encounter with the comet could change the atmosphere of Mars greatly.

The visual effects of the comets trajectory may result in auroras over the magnetic fields of mars. The auroras won’t cover the whole planet because unlike earth, Mar’s magnetic fields do not cover the whole planet just pieces of it! (source: JPL NASA)

Maven’s main focus at launch was to show how Mars lost its atmosphere. Most scientists believe that mars lost its atmosphere because of solar wind and the fact that its pole are unstable and constantly moving. Maven has been sent there to prove or disprove that theory.

Mars must have had a thick enough atmospheres at some point in time to sustain liquid water, but right now it does not, which leads scientists to believe that solar winds swept away almost 99% of that atmosphere. Scientists know for a fact that at some point there had to be water because of dry river bed that are on mars.

The maven has special scientific equipment built in that allows it to measure solar winds. Solar winds are a dis-charge from the Suns corona that mainly consists of electrons and protons. The solar winds change the gravitational pull from the sun on planets like mars and earth. That is why at the North Pole we have the northern lights.

The Maven was defiantly an expensive project, costing about 187 million dollars, but it’s worth it if it will teach us more about the past of our neighboring planet mars.

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