Planets and Moons  ID: 4825

MAVEN – Mars and Solar Wind Simulation

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. The solar wind is a stream of electrically charged particles blowing from the Sun at approximately one million miles per hour.

This visualization simulates charged particles (ions) in the Mars upper atmosphere interacting with the solar wind and escaping to space. Red and yellow particles represent high-velocity ions that escape the planet, while greens and blues represent low-velocity ions that remain bound to Mars. Time is frozen in the visualization, and a camera move reveals the structure of the system.

On Mars’ dayside, the ions follow the contours of the solar wind bow shock; on its nightside they are drawn into a long tail, with a complex internal structure driven by electrical current systems. MAVEN’s elliptical orbit is embedded within the cloud of escaping ions. In this visualization, MAVEN orbits nearly above the Martian terminator – the boundary between the planet’s dayside and its nightside – though the orbit also drifts slowly around Mars.

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.

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Visualization Credits

Greg Shirah (NASA/GSFC): Lead Visualizer
Horace Mitchell (NASA/GSFC): Visualizer
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Producer
Yingjuan Ma (UCLA): Scientist
David Brain (University of Colorado Boulder): Scientist
Laurence Schuler (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Ian Jones (ADNET Systems, Inc.): Technical Support
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio

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MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN

Data Used:
CelesTrak Spacecraft Orbit Ephemeris
Hipparcos/Telescope/Tycho 2 Catalogue also referred to as: Tycho Catalogue
MAVEN/MAG/Magnetic Field Vectors
Observed Data
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

SVS >> Magnetic Fields
SVS >> Magnetosphere
SVS >> Mars
SVS >> Simulation
SVS >> Solar Wind
GCMD >> Location >> Bow Shock
SVS >> Solar System >> Planets >> Mars >> Ionosphere
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Mars Atmosphere

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version