Dust Storms on Mars Might Glow with Tiny Sparks, Study Shows

0

Like something out of a Mad Max movie, a new study shows that dust storms on Mars might glow with tiny sparks.

A new abstract published by a group of scientists that simulated the low-pressure atmosphere of Mars reveals that the electrical discharge, or static shock, we’re familiar with here on Earth might happen on Mars, as reported by Inside Science. Furthermore, it might happen within the massive dust storms that occur on the Red Planet, which means the dust clouds roaming the planet’s hills and craters could glow with tiny sparks of electricity.

Static shock is scientifically known as a phenomenon called triboelectrification, which is essentially a buildup of electricity between two surfaces touching each other. It’s what happens when you drag your feet across a carpet and then touch a metal doorknob or your friend’s arm. Before this abstract, there wasn’t evidence that triboelectrication occurred on Mars.

The team of scientists behind the abstract recreated Mars’ atmosphere by stirring up small pieces of volcanic basalt, which are similar to the type of rocks detected on Mars, inside low-pressure containers, according to Inside Science. They then used jets of carbon dioxide gas to stir up the particles inside the containers in such a way that kept the dust inside away from the container’s walls. On Mars, those walls don’t exist so if the sparks appear as a result of the collision between that dust and the walls, it wouldn’t count as a direct simulation of what occurs on Mars.

To the surprise of the team, sparks began to fly and scientist Méndez Harper believes this implies that dust storms on Mars “[crackle] with electricity.” Harper states in the abstract that because of Mars’ lower pressure compared to Earth, sparks discharge easier on the Red Planet, which means the long streaks of lightning we’re used to likely don’t occur there. Instead, that electrical discharge translates into dust storms that flash with tiny sparks that cause the dust clouds to glow purple.

An artist rendition of Perseverance on Mars, Image Credit: NASA

Harper says this phenomenon is called a “corona glow” and that NASA might get a glimpse of that courtesy of its Perseverance rover that landed on Mars last week.

“You could imagine that as [the small helicopter that flew Perseverance to Mars called Ingenuity] takes off, it might churn up a bunch of dust,” Harper said. “I look forward to watching that.”

For more news on Mars, read about how researchers are trying to turn the Red Planet green and check out this story about how researchers may have new ideas about the formation of Mars.


Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes

FOLLOW US ON GOOGLE NEWS

 

Read original article here

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.