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Magnetized Mars
News story originally written on September 22, 1997

"Mars Global Surveyor has been in orbit for only a few days, yet it already has returned an important discovery about the Red Planet," said Vice President Al Gore. You see, scientists have confirmed the existence of a magnetic field surrounding Mars using the magnetometer aboard the Mars Surveyor probe. The magnetic field was found on September 15th, just 4 days after Surveyor plunged into Martian orbit.

Mars Global Surveyor's magnetometer discovered the outermost boundary of the Martian magnetic field -- known as the bow shock (see the image to the left). The polarity of the magnetic field seems to be similar to that of Earth, though the field strength is only 1/800 the strength of the Earth's magnetic field.

All previous Martian missions had left inconclusive evidence regarding the presence of a magnetic field. Such definitive measurements, taken so early on in Surveyor's mission, are certainly a success. All systems onboard the spacecraft continue to function nominally.

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