MAVEN Instruments Study the Solar Wind at Mars

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ spacecraft is equipped with several instruments devoted to measuring the solar wind and how solar energetic particles and extreme ultraviolet irradiance interact with Mars’ upper atmosphere. These experiments have been specifically designed to determine whether space weather events increase atmospheric escape rates to historically important levels.

In analyzing data from these instruments, MAVEN scientists will take three approaches to derive the history of Mars’ atmosphere:

1. Use ratios of stable isotopes to determine the integrated loss to space
2. Use observed changes in escape in response to changing energetic inputs to directly extrapolate back in time
3. Model escape processes using current conditions and extrapolate models back in time

Taking these approaches enables our team scientists to determine how various space weather events affect the upper atmosphere of Mars today and how they have contributed to its evolution over time. Capturing events of different magnitudes becomes more likely over time and contributes to producing more accurate model extrapolations back in time.

MAVEN data is allowing scientists to:

  • Investigate atmospheric escape response to regular solar wind variations and to major events (solar flares, coronal mass ejections)
  • Update an estimate of solar wind evolution
  • Determine how solar energetic particles contribute to escape, and
  • Estimate integrated historical loss to space

NASA Goddard