Solar wind pulses help erode the Martian atmosphere

Mars is constantly losing parts of its atmosphere to space. The processes driving that loss of atmosphere are not completely understood. A new study shows that pressure from solar wind pulses is a significant contributor to Mars's atmospheric escape.

Niklas Edberg (now at IRF in Uppsala) and his co-authors find that Mars's atmosphere does not drift away at a steady pace; instead, atmospheric escape occurs in bursts. The researchers relate those bursts of atmospheric loss to solar events known as corotating interaction regions. Their results appeared in Geophysical Research Letters paper 10.1029/2009GL041814, 2010. The article "Pumping out the atmosphere of Mars through solar wind pressure pulses" was chosen as an AGU Journal Highlight 8 March 2010.


Authors: N. J. T. Edberg: Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK and Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Uppsala, Sweden;

H. Nilsson, S. Barabash and Y. Futaana: Swedish Institute of Space Physics, Kiruna, Sweden;

A. O. Williams, M. Lester, S. E. Milan, and S. W. H. Cowley: Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK;

M. Fränz: Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany.

AGU Journal Highlights 8 March 2010:

Created 2010-03-09 11:00:01 by Rick McGregor
Last changed 2010-03-09 11:00:01 by Rick McGregor

The Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) is a governmental research institute which conducts research and postgraduate education in atmospheric physics, space physics and space technology. Measurements are made in the atmosphere, ionosphere, magnetosphere and around other planets with the help of ground-based equipment (including radar), stratospheric balloons and satellites. IRF was established (as Kiruna Geophysical Observatory) in 1957 and its first satellite instrument was launched in 1968. The head office is in Kiruna (geographic coordinates 67.84° N, 20.41° E) and IRF also has offices in Umeå, Uppsala and Lund.