The MAVEN research spacecraft has been in orbit near Mars for quite some time, studying the atmosphere and atmospheric phenomena on the Red Planet. And just the other day, representatives of the American space agency NASA reported that the MAVEN apparatus was able to detect a “layered” structure of the atmosphere and a kind of “reefs and peaks” arising in its upper part. Note that such phenomena are quite common in the Earth’s atmosphere, and they cause unpredictable failures in the operation of some radio communication systems.
Modern science still does not fully understand the nature of some of these atmospheric phenomena due to the fact that they occur at heights that are difficult to access for a comprehensive study. And the discovery of such processes in the Martian atmosphere will allow scientists to gain a better and deeper understanding of them.
Every person listening to the radio can feel the influence of such processes. Quite often, the signal of the radio station the receiver is tuned in is clogged with noise or a signal from another radio station located far outside the coverage area, for which the layers of charged plasma in the upper layers of the ionosphere are responsible. These layers form spontaneously; they can exist for several hours, acting like giant “mirrors” reflecting radio waves. And this effect has been used for a long time in long-distance radio communication systems. However, the influence of atmospheric phenomena can also cause interference in aviation and marine radio communication systems, blind radars for a while, etc.
Plasma layers in the Earth’s atmosphere are formed at an altitude of about 95-100 kilometers, where the air is too thin to allow aircraft to fly. At the same time, the atmosphere at such an altitude is still quite dense, which makes the flight of any artificial satellite impossible. Investigations of atmospheric processes at such an altitude are carried out mainly with the help of small rockets, the residence time of which at an altitude of interest to scientists is limited to a maximum of several tens of seconds.
Due to the small thickness of the Martian atmosphere, the MAVEN spacecraft can be at a lower altitude and make some direct observations and measurements. This is precisely what allowed one of the instruments of the apparatus to detect the layered structure and entire “mountains” of plasma that arise in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Note that earlier, the MAVEN apparatus was able to detect completely opposite phenomena — regions of the Martian ionosphere in which an abnormally low amount of plasma was recorded.
In conclusion, it should be noted that the data collected by the MAVEN apparatus show that what is happening in the upper layers of the Martian atmosphere is in many ways similar to what is happening in the Earth’s atmosphere. Therefore, these data, combined with data collected on Earth, will allow scientists to learn more about the nature of phenomena in the ionosphere and develop technologies that will reduce the degree of influence of these phenomena on everything that happens on the planet’s surface.