Scientists Made Interesting Discoveries About Lightning On Mars

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A recent study, published in the October issue of the journal Icarus, shows interesting new findings of Mars. It seems that, since Mars has a thinner atmosphere than Earth, lighting on Mars might be less energetic and rarer than on our planet, if this phenomenon even occurs on the Red Planet.

Scientists found some evidence of lightning happening in Mars’ atmosphere. For example, the first ever recorded proof was detected in 2009, after a team of researchers discovered that a dust storm that took place in 2006 emitted microwave emissions. Experts suggested that the dust storm was a result of massive electrical discharges.

After conducting more research, scientists were not able to find radio evidence of lightning occurring during dust storms on the Red Planet, even though they spent five years gathering data using Europe’s Mars Express spacecraft and the Allen Telescope Array in California.

Scientists Made Interesting Discoveries About Lightning On Mars

Scientists were curious to know why thunderbolts are so infrequent on Mars. To be able to form an explanation, they focused on the type of electrical discharges that could be generated by a dust storm. It seems that, during a dust storm, particles build up their electrical charge, causing an effect similar to static electricity. When two objects interact, they can exchange electrons, building up even more charge.

The new research was made by experimenting with basalt particles. The crust of Mars contains basalt, a dark volcanic rock. Scientists placed the grains on a plate that vibrated for half an hour, at varying air pressures. Afterward, they measured the electric charge of the particles. They found that no matter how low or high the air pressure is, the electric charge as still weak.

On our planet, electric charge can be built up from cosmic rays or UV radiation. However, experts believe that these mechanisms are probably not strong enough on Mars to generate lightning.


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