NASA’s MAVEN mission finds Mars has a twisted magnetic tail 

Posted: October 21, 2017 by oldbrew in Electro-magnetism, research, solar system dynamics

Mars [image credit: ESA]

Invisible goings-on at Mars. Having referred to ‘the magnetotail found at Venus, a planet with no magnetic field of its own’, it seems clear that such things must have a lot to do with the electro-magnetic forces being delivered in the solar wind, as this ScienceDaily report explains.

Mars has an invisible magnetic “tail” that is twisted by interaction with the solar wind, according to new research using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) spacecraft is in orbit around Mars gathering data on how the Red Planet lost much of its atmosphere and water, transforming from a world that could have supported life billions of years ago into a cold and inhospitable place today.

The process that creates the twisted tail could also allow some of Mars’ already thin atmosphere to escape to space, according to the research team.

“We found that Mars’ magnetic tail, or magnetotail, is unique in the solar system,” said Gina DiBraccio of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “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.”

The team found that a process called “magnetic reconnection” must have a big role in creating the Martian magnetotail because, if reconnection were occurring, it would put the twist in the tail.

“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,” said 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.”

Mars lost its global magnetic field billions of years ago and now just has remnant “fossil” magnetic fields embedded in certain regions of its surface. According to the new work, Mars’ magnetotail is formed when magnetic fields carried by the solar wind join with the magnetic fields embedded in the Martian surface in a process called magnetic reconnection.

The solar wind is a stream of electrically conducting gas continuously blowing from the Sun’s surface into space at about one million miles (1.6 million kilometers) per hour. It carries magnetic fields from the Sun with it. If the solar wind field happens to be oriented in the opposite direction to a field in the Martian surface, the two fields join together in magnetic reconnection.

Continued here.
– – –
NASA on magnetic reconnection: X Marks the Spot: SDO Sees Reconnection [short video]

  1. John Silver says:

    electrically conducting gas


  2. oldbrew says:

    The solar wind is a plasma.

    The solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona. This plasma consists of mostly electrons, protons and alpha particles with thermal energies between 1.5 and 10 keV. Embedded within the solar-wind plasma is the interplanetary magnetic field.
    . . .
    Although Mars is larger than Mercury and four times farther from the Sun, it is thought that the solar wind has stripped away up to a third of its original atmosphere, leaving a layer 1/100th as dense as the Earth’s. It is believed the mechanism for this atmospheric stripping is gas caught in bubbles of magnetic field, which are ripped off by solar winds.[44] In 2015 the NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission measured the rate of atmospheric stripping caused by the magnetic field carried by the solar wind as it flows past Mars, which generates an electric field, much as a turbine on Earth can be used to generate electricity. This electric field accelerates electrically charged gas atoms, called ions, in Mars’ upper atmosphere and shoots them into space.[45] The MAVEN mission measured the rate of atmospheric stripping at about 100 grams (~1/4 lb) per second.
    [bold added]

    That’s the Wiki theory anyway. You decide if it makes (any) sense 😎

  3. J Martin says:

    So Mars is losing atmosphere at the rate of 165 tons per year. So 1 billion years ago had an additional 165 billion tons of atmosphere, is that a lot or next to nothing ?

  4. oldbrew says:

    Mars’s atmospheric mass of 25 teratonnes compares to Earth’s 5148 teratonnes

    A teratonne = a trillion tonnes
    – – –
    Solar eruptions could electrify Martian moons
    October 18, 2017

    Powerful solar eruptions could electrically charge areas of the Martian moon Phobos to hundreds of volts, presenting a complex electrical environment that could possibly affect sensitive electronics carried by future robotic explorers, according to a new NASA study.
    . . .
    Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos. Although this study focused on Phobos, similar conditions are expected at Deimos, since both moons have no atmosphere and are directly exposed to the solar wind – a stream of electrically conducting gas, called a plasma, that’s constantly blowing off the surface of the Sun into space at around a million miles per hour.
    [bold added]

    Read more at:

  5. JB says:

    Amusing how they combine “lines” with fields almost in the same breath to describe the phenomenon. One of many misconceptions that dies hard..

  6. oldbrew says:

    Separating theory and physical reality…

    A magnetic field line or magnetic flux line shows the direction of a magnet’s force and the strength of a magnet.

    The idea of lines of force was invented by Michael Faraday. His theory is that all of reality is made up of force itself. His theory predicts that electricity, light, and gravity have finite propagation delays. Einstein’s theory agrees with this.

    One can make magnetic field lines show as if they were physical phenomena. For example, iron filings placed in a magnetic field line up to form lines that correspond to ‘field lines’. [bold added]

    The ‘as if’ in as if they were physical phenomena obviously tells us they are not 3D physical phenomena.
    Therefore they can’t ‘break’ or ‘reconnect’. Something is missing, in the terminology at least.
    – – –
    Btw what are Wikipedia’s bubbles of magnetic field?

  7. JB says:

    At least the portion concerning a magnetic field present in the solar wind is intelligible. Plotting the shape of that field is difficult enough. But when more than one field is present it becomes a complex problem, because (aside from permanent magnets) the fields are not constant. A single magnetometer in motion around an astronomical body is not going to reveal anything but the instantaneous intensity and direction at that particular location and moment. By itself, it cannot distinguish between multiple fields merging or opposing, much less direction. A proper sensor would be constructed of multiple sensors like the rods and cones of the eye, which is a feat of engineering by itself, since a sensitive magnetometer creates a localized field of its own.

    It always seemed one-sided and peculiar to me that an electrical engineer is required to take several courses in higher mathematics from the mathematics dept. But the “astro” students are not required to take a single, solid course in magnetics from the engineering dept. Thus we have these “alchemical” wizards formulating grand, rude theories about astro-magnetics and claiming to confirm them when they can’t even distinguish between the descriptive verbiage of their models and the actual phenomenon.

    Faraday used iron filings as a rude field indicator, and had sense enough to realize clumping of particles was not necessarily an indicator of the field itself. Since then no one seems to have developed a better instrument for revealing the 3 dimensional character of a magnetic field, especially one created by the uniform movement of electric charge.

    Magnetic Bubbles? They’re astro-alchemy.

    [reply] indeed

  8. John Silver says:

    Plasma is not gas is not plasma.

  9. JuergenK says:

    As I understand it
    Iron filings in a magnetic field are created like plasma filaments. They allign in chains thereby creating their own magnetic field. All these fields have the same polarity and they repell each other which automatically alligns the filings in threads. In reality there are no magnetic lines in nature, but homogenous fields which can be disturbed or structurised like the filings do, like the ions do in plasma “lines” or plasma filaments.

    Since electro-magnetism is such a vast force, these lines or filaments can be scaled up to very big structures – even hundreds of lightyears long.
    Those gigantic filaments are not called field lines by astronomers but in essence they are. Those filaments in space are the consequence of electrically charged particles/atoms floating in a electro-magnetic background-field.

    Plasma filaments in space behave like accelerator tubes which can accelerate ions up to very high speeds which can be missinterpreted as very high temperatures since temperature is defined by the movement of particles.
    Plasma tubes are very elastic and they do stretch and shrink in pulses which create regular radio waves which can be missinterpreted as pulsars. If there’s enough plasma nearby, those tubes will be accelerating matter in pulses and at the same time create radio-pulses and if the glowing plasma is dense enough even light-pulses – see crab nebula.

    I allways think of electro-magnetism as the dominant force and gravity as a secondary effect of that force and consequently most pieces fall into place by themselves while considering the latest “surprising” discoverys made by NASA/ESA etc.

  10. oldbrew says:

    ‘ electro-magnetism as the dominant force and gravity as a secondary effect of that force’

    Something tells me that’s not what today’s science bigwigs want to hear.

  11. oldbrew says:

    Major Space Weather Event on Mars
    Oct. 4, 2017

    “Radiation levels suddenly doubled and they remained high for nearly two days,” says Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute, principal investigator for Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). “This is the largest event we have seen since Curiosity landed in 2012.”
    . . .
    “Curiosity has seen 5 ground level events since 2012. They are not uncommon,” he says, “and they will probably grow stronger in the years ahead as we move through Solar Minimum and return to a more active phase of the solar cycle.”

    Aka “Martian Carrington Events”.

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