Research Article

MAVEN observations of the response of Mars to an interplanetary coronal mass ejection

Science  06 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6261,
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0210

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Abstract

Coupling between the lower and upper atmosphere, combined with loss of gas from the upper atmosphere to space, likely contributed to the thin, cold, dry atmosphere of modern Mars. To help understand ongoing ion loss to space, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft made comprehensive measurements of the Mars upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind during an interplanetary coronal mass ejection impact in March 2015. Responses include changes in the bow shock and magnetosheath, formation of widespread diffuse aurora, and enhancement of pick-up ions. Observations and models both show an enhancement in escape rate of ions to space during the event. Ion loss during solar events early in Mars history may have been a major contributor to the long-term evolution of the Mars atmosphere.

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