The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (also known as MAVEN) spacecraft have made an exciting discovery in the form of rifts and layers that are encountered in the Martian ionosphere.
These disturbances are encountered quite often on our planet, but they take place at altitudes that increase the difficulty of observing them accurately. It is already thought that the data collected by MAVEN could allow scientists to learn more about the phenomenon and the factors that contribute to its appearance.
According to the lead author of a new paper on the topic, these layers can be picked up by any person who uses a radio, but their position makes them quite elusive. The fact that valuable data about them comes from a spacecraft located at a distance of 300 million miles is impressive.
Understanding Radio Interference On Earth Using Data Collected by MAVEN From Mars
Layers of high-energy plasma tend to form in the ionosphere, which is classified as the highest section of the atmosphere. Such layers appear out of nowhere and tend to persist for several hours, blocking the ability of radio signals to travel and reach their destination. They can also generate interference that affects aircraft communications and blocks the nearby military radars.
In the case of our atmosphere, the layers tend to form at an altitude of 60 miles (or 100 kilometers). A major problem stems from the fact that the distance is too high for aircraft while also being too low for the operation of satellites. It can be reached with the help of a rocket, but the length of most missions tends to be under ten minutes.
Spacecraft like MAVEN can orbit at lower altitudes on Mars, a trait which allows researchers to explore valuable data that can be picked by scientific instruments. With the help of the new data, the mechanics behind these layers could be understood. A paper was published in a scientific journal.