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Recently, Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has found evidence of "solitary waves" in the weak magnetic field around Mars for the 1st time. Solitary Wave in Martian Magnetosphere
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- Earth is a giant magnetic entity, wrapped in a magnetosphere generated by the motion of molten iron in its core.
- This magnetosphere casts a protective layer around our home planet, shielding us from the solar winds coughed towards us by the Sun.
- But unlike Earth, Mars lacks a robust intrinsic magnetic field, which effectively allows the high-speed solar wind to interact directly with the Martian atmosphere.
- This interaction suggests that even with a weak and flimsy magnetosphere, the frequent occurrences of solitary waves on Mars remain a possibility.
- However, despite several missions to Mars, their presence has never been detected until now.
- Scientists from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have successfully identified and reported the first-ever solitary waves detected on Mars.
- They arrived at this result by analysing about 450 solitary wave pulses observed by the Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument on NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft.
- Their analysis revealed distinct electric field fluctuations, which lasted for about 0.2-1.7 milliseconds and were predominant during dawn or between afternoon to dusk at an altitude of 1000-3500 km from Mars' surface.
- Using Computer simulation on Mars' thin magnetosphere, the researchers found that even the spatial extent of these structures is miniature (about 30 to 330 metres).
- Further investigation is needed to determine exactly why these waves are dominant during a fixed time of the day.
- In fact, this becomes more crucial due to the role of these waves in particle energisation, plasma loss and transport through wave-particle interactions.
- The research team is now examining their function in particle dynamics of the Martian magnetosphere in an attempt to understand whether such waves play any role in the loss of atmospheric ions on Mars.
- A clearer picture of this phenomenon would help researchers gain new insights into the behaviour of the Martian magnetic field and that of other planets.