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article imageTop ten recent discoveries about Mars

By Tim Sandle     Jun 25, 2017 in Science
Houston - NASA’s space probe MAVEN has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars since late 2013. In this time the probe has captured masses of information which has been sorted through by NASA scientists. We review the ten most interesting.
Mars continues to fascinate. It is the most ‘Earth-like’ of the planets in the solar system and it is possible, when the Sun was warmer, that it could have supported life in some form (most likely microbial). Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, after Mercury. Named after the Roman god of war, it is often referred to as the "Red Planet" because the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance.
Today the planet is a cold, barren desert world. It nevertheless contains some interesting features. This month MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) marked 1,000 Earth days in orbit around the Red Planet. MAVEN was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space Systems. Its design is based on those of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The orbiter has a cubical shape of about 2.3 meters × 2.3 meters × 2 meters high, with two solar arrays that hold the magnetometers on both ends.
Ten interesting features are detected by the probe are described below.
First, the atmosphere is unexpected. The interactions between gaseous nitric oxide and ozone in the atmosphere are dynamic and it does not resemble what happens on Earth. Second, particles solar winds penetrate unexpectedly deep into the upper Martian atmosphere.
A recently released crisp  hi-resolution image of a relatively recent  in geological terms  crater i...
A recently released crisp, hi-resolution image of a relatively recent, in geological terms, crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars.
NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
The third fact is that there’s a layer of metal ions in the Martian ionosphere. This is the result of interplanetary dust striking the atmosphere. Fourth there are two fascinating types of aurora, which NASA has dubbed the "diffuse" and "proton" aurora. The reason for these is mysterious, which links to the fifth finding that the aurorae are caused by an influx of particles from the sun ejected by different types of solar storms.
Mars as it really looks  and lots of things to explore.
Mars as it really looks, and lots of things to explore.
JPL/NASA
The sixth finding is with the interactions between the solar wind and the planet. These are complex and the occurrence of small regions of magnetized crust lead to the magnetosphere of Mars being described as very "lumpy".
An artist’s impression showing how Mars may have looked about 4 billion years ago. The young plane...
An artist’s impression showing how Mars may have looked about 4 billion years ago. The young planet would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 140 metres deep. More likely, however, the liquid would have pooled forming an ocean spanning almost half of Mars' northern hemisphere, in some regions reaching depths greater than 1.6 kilometers.
ESO/M. Kornmesser
The seventh observation is that hydrogen in the upper atmosphere alters according to seasons, varying by a factor of 10 across each year. The eight aspect of the Martian atmosphere is that considerable quantities of gas have been lost to space. The ninth finding follows on and it is with the rate at which the sun and the solar wind are stripping gas from the top of the atmosphere. The tenth observation is that so much of the Martian atmosphere has been stripped away over time, that a climate that was one warmer and wetter is now cold and dry climate.
More about Mars, martian, NASA, Space, Planets
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