MAVEN orbits Mars and measures solar particle velocities and variations in the solar wind’s magnetic field.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since 2014, observing the planet’s upper atmosphere and its interaction with the solar wind in order to better understand the climate history of Mars.
In this visualization, a series of MAVEN’s orbits are shown from March 8-9, 2015. During these orbits, MAVEN’s particles and fields instruments observed the speed and direction of charged particles in the solar wind flowing past Mars – represented as yellow spikes pointing from the planet’s dayside toward its nightside. MAVEN’s magnetometers also recorded variations in the strength and direction of the solar wind’s magnetic field – represented as green spikes at an angle to the charged particle velocities.
The solar wind has contributed to the erosion of the Martian atmosphere over time, which has gradually turned Mars from warm and wet to cold and dry. MAVEN is helping scientists to better understand the complex processes that have driven this transition, and which continue to affect the Martian climate today.