This image illustrates the magnetic field of the planet.
Click on image for full size
Image from: NASA/JPL
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 Martian magnetic field. A determination of the presence of a magnetic field helps scientists understand where the magnetic material of Mars resides, and a little bit about the Martian evolution. It also answers one fundamental question set to be resolved by the Mars Surveyor Program.
Scientists used to think that because the Martian surface contained so much iron, and the Martian magnetic field was so weak, that the early history of Mars was not sufficiently warm for Mars to differentiate, and form a large solid iron core. A large molten iron core, such as that of the Earth, would generate a strong magnetic field. Thus, iron must have stayed mostly on the outside layers of Mars, making the surface red with rust.
Recently, Mars Pathfinder returned a measurement which suggested that Mars has a large iron core. Therefore, if the core of Mars is large and composed of iron as the Mars Pathfinder measurement shows, and there definitely is a magnetic field generated inside as the Mars Global Surveyor measurement shows, then this theory about the evolution of Mars may not be completely correct.
You might also be interested in:
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
Born as a result of the failure of Mars Observer (MO), the Mars Surveyor Program was designed to explore Mars with all the original measurements planned for MO, and a lot more. It varied from the MO mission...more
Differentiation is a scientific term which really means "to separate". In their earliest history, elements which comprised the planets and moons would part into separate regions, if the body was warm enough....more
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 Global Surveyor (MGS) is conducting mapping operations at Mars more than 30 years after America's first reconnaissance missions reached the mysterious red planet. Here are some of the instruments...more
These are some of the initial findings of Mars Global Surveyor. The definite confirmation of the presence of a magnetic field near Mars. suggests scientists must rethink theories about the evolution of...more
A magnetometer is an instrument for measuring magnetic fields. Many spacecraft carry magnetometers to measure the magnetic fields around planets they orbit or fly by. When a spacecraft takes such measurements,...more