Mars Disappearing Solar Wind: MAVEN Visualizations

  • Released Monday, December 11th, 2023
  • Updated Thursday, December 21st, 2023 at 10:58PM
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This data visualization depicts a period of decreased solar wind at Mars that occurred on December 25, 2022, causing the planet’s magnetosphere to expand outward. Ion velocity and density data collected by the MAVEN spacecraft is presented using a color-mapped satellite orbit tail and vectors along MAVEN’s orbit.

In December 2022, NASA’s Mars-orbiting MAVEN mission observed the dramatic and unexpected “disappearance” of the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that continuously emanates from the Sun. This was caused by a special type of solar event that was so powerful, it created a void in its wake as it traveled through the solar system. The Martian atmosphere and magnetosphere expanded by thousands of kilometers in response, causing the solar wind to temporarily vanish from Mars. MAVEN’s observations of this dramatic event are helping scientists to better understand the physics that drive atmospheric and water loss at Mars.

This data visualization depicts a period of decreased solar wind at Mars that occurred on December 25, 2022, causing the planet’s magnetosphere to expand outward. Ion velocity and density data collected by the MAVEN spacecraft is presented using a color-mapped satellite orbit tail and vectors along MAVEN’s orbit. This version does not include a date stamp or legend.

Legend and color bars for light ion velocity (vector length), light ion density (purple to white), and heavy ion density (green to red).

Legend and color bars for light ion velocity (vector length), light ion density (purple to white), and heavy ion density (green to red).

This data visualization depicts a period of decreased solar wind at Mars that occurred on December 25, 2022, causing the planet’s magnetosphere to expand outward. Ion velocity and density data collected by the MAVEN spacecraft is presented using a color-mapped satellite orbit tail and vectors along MAVEN’s orbit. This version does not include a date stamp or legend and is in a vertical orientation.

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