In a groundbreaking discovery, a team of Indian scientists have uncovered the first evidence of solitary waves in the Martian magnetosphere. These electric field fluctuations, known to control particle energization and transport in Earth’s magnetosphere, have remained hidden in the weak and thin magnetosphere of Mars until now.
The research, conducted by the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, utilized high-resolution data from the Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument on NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. The team analyzed 450 solitary wave pulses observed during the spacecraft’s five passes around Mars in February 2015.
The findings, published in The Astrophysical Journal, reveal that the Martian magnetosphere is not only weak, but also highly dynamic, formed by the direct interaction of solar winds with the Martian atmosphere. The solitary waves, which maintain a constant amplitude-phase relation and are less affected during their propagation, were predominantly observed in the dawn and afternoon-dusk sectors at an altitude of 1000-3500 km around Mars.
The researchers are now exploring the potential role of these waves in the dynamics of particles in the Martian magnetosphere and the loss of atmospheric ions on Mars.
It is important to note that while Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet from high-speed charged particles emitted by the sun, Mars does not have any intrinsic magnetic field that protects it from the direct impact of solar winds. Understanding these solitary waves could reveal new information about the Red Planet’s atmosphere and the effects of solar winds on its environment.
This discovery is a significant step in enhancing our understanding of the fundamental physical processes and ambient plasma conditions in planetary space plasma environments.