First evidence of solitary waves near Mars may decode the mystery behind ion loss in the planet

Source: The post is based on the articleFirst evidence of solitary waves near Mars may decode the mystery behind ion loss in the planet published in PIB on 16th January 2023.

What is the News?

Scientists have reported the first evidence of the presence of solitary waves or distinct electric field fluctuations in the Martian magnetosphere. 

About the discovery of Solitary waves on Mars

Our Earth is a giant magnet and its magnetic field protects us from high-speed charged particles that are continuously emitted from the Sun in the form of solar wind. 

Unlike Earth, the planet Mars does not have any intrinsic magnetic field. This allows the high-speed solar wind to interact directly with the Mars atmosphere, like an obstacle in flow. 

It has been suggested that even in a weak and thin magnetosphere like that of Mars, one can observe frequent occurrences of solitary waves. 

However, despite several missions to Mars, the presence of solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere has never been reported earlier.

For the first time, a research team from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) has identified and reported the solitary waves on Mars.

What are Solitary waves?

Solitary waves are distinct electric field fluctuations (bipolar or monopolar) that follow constant amplitude-phase relations. Their shape and size are less affected during their propagation. 

The magnitude and duration of these pulses are found to be 1-25 millivolt/meter and 0.2–1.7 milliseconds, respectively. 

These pulses are dominantly seen in the dawn and afternoon dusk sectors at an altitude of 1000–3500 km around Mars. 

What is the significance of the discovery of solitary waves on Mars?

As solitary waves are known to be responsible for the plasma energization and its transport in Earth’s magnetosphere, the researchers are further exploring their role in the particle dynamics in the Martian magnetosphere and whether such waves play any role in the loss of atmospheric ions on Mars.               


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