Scientists have discovered jet streams in Mars' magnetosheath.
A team of researchers from Umeå University and the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna have detected jet streams in Mars’ magnetosheath using data from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. This finding, published in Science Advances, marks the first instance of such jets outside Earth, proving what a unique world the red planet is.
Magnetosheath jets are dense or fast-flowing clumps of plasma in the magnetosheath, an area where the solar wind is deflected around a planet. They occasionally exhibit both characteristics.
Magnetosheath Jets: An Earthly Phenomenon?
“Magnetosheath jets have been observed near Earth for 25 years, sparking curiosity about their existence on other planets,” says Herbert Gunell, an Associate Professor at Umeå University and the study’s lead.
The MAVEN spacecraft, in Mars’ orbit since 2014, studies the Martian atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind. “Before MAVEN, only Earth-bound satellites had the required speed to detect these jets,” Gunell explains.
Comparing Earth and Mars: Planetary Differences
Given the significant differences between Earth and Mars, such as Mars’ smaller size and lack of a global magnetic field resulting in a much smaller magnetosheath, the discovery of Martian jets was far from guaranteed.
Gunell emphasizes, “While we know that magnetosheath jets generate waves and can traverse the entire magnetosheath, reaching regions with stronger magnetic fields, our understanding of their role in Mars’ interaction with the solar wind is just beginning.”