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This image illustrates Mars Global Surveyor studying the planet.
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Image from: NASA/JPL

The Martian Ionosphere

The Martian ionosphere is a layer of gas composed of ions and electrons that extends from about 75 miles up to several hundred miles up above the surface. The layer is shown schematically by the shaded region circling the planet (not to scale). Temperatures in this region are very hot. Unlike the Earth's ionosphere, the Martian ionosphere is not shielded from the solar wind by a strong planetary magnetic field. New measurements by Mars Global Surveyor show that the magnetic field of Mars is weak. This region may have a complicated interaction with the Martian magnetosphere.

Measurements by Mars Global Surveyor will help scientists study Mars' ionosphere and compare it with those of Earth and Venus. The ionosphere of Mars was even used to help brake the spacecraft and place it into a circular orbit.


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Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Magnetosphere

A magnetosphere has many parts, such as the bow shock, magnetosheath, magnetotail, plasmasheet, lobes, plasmasphere, radiation belts and many electric currents. It is composed of charged particles and...more

Mars Global Surveyor Magnetometer findings

An important new result from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission is the definite confirmation of the presence of a magnetosphere around Mars. Previous missions made inconclusive measurements of the...more

The Martian Magnetosphere

An important new result from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) mission is the definite confirmation of the presence of a magnetic field near Mars. The magnetic field leads to the formation of a magnetosphere,...more

Aerobraking

On September 12, 1997, the Mars Global Surveyor successfully entered a highly elliptical orbit around Mars. To get into the near-circular, near-polar, low-altitude orbit necessary to map the surface of...more

Martian Clouds

Unlike the Earth, where clouds are found around the entire globe, on Mars, clouds seem to be plentiful only in the middle latitudes, as shown in this Hubble telescope image. This may be because water of...more

The Martian Ionosphere

The Martian ionosphere is a layer of gas composed of ions and electrons that extends from about 75 miles up to several hundred miles up above the surface. The layer is shown schematically by the shaded...more

Mars Odyssey

The Mars Odyssey was launched April 7, 2001, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After a six-month, 285 million-mile journey, the Odyssey arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001 (02:30 Universal...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF