New research explains why Mars’ lightning is fainter and rarer than Earth’s

A new study stated that Mars’ lightning would be fainter and rarer than Earth’s. The research has been issued in the journal Icarus and disclosed important discoveries of Mars’ atmosphere, more precise, how it had impacted the presence of lightning on the Red Planet.

The team of scientists discovered that based on data collected by Europe’s Mars Express probe, and California’s Allen Telescope Array, lightning is more lifeless and happens less frequently than anticipated because of the Mars’ thin air.

Back in 2009, researchers revealed that they found microwave emissions from a 2006 dust storm on the Red Planet. It was implied that the emissions were the conclusion of sudden, vast electrical discharges, therefore, unveiling the first evidence of lightning on Mars.

Scientists then analyzed the data obtained by the Mars Express for more than five years, and of data gathered by the Allen Telescope for three months. After that first discovered occurrence, though, no other radio proof of thunderbolts had been detected in dust storms on the Red Planet.

The storms’ sand grains and other fragments generate an electric charge in what is called ‘triboelectric effect,’ which occurs when two objects crush with each other multiple times or touch each other briefly. In such cases, the surface of one object could absorb electrons from the other object’s surface, therefore building up charge.

For the research, scientists used grains of a dark volcanic rock commonly found on Mars’ surface, also known as basalt, so they can recreate the planet’s dust storms and conclude the environments in which the lightning appears.

Spherical basalt grains were put on a plate, which was vibrated for thirty minutes at different air pressure, so it generates the triboelectric charge. The study then calculated the grain’s rank of electric charge, ultimately concluding that low air pressure obstructs electric charge from gathering together.

NASA’s future mission to the Red Planet is set to launch on July the 17th, 2020 with the Mars 2020 rover expecting to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on February the 18th, 2021.

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Benjamin Diaz

About the Author: Benjamin Diaz

Benjamin Diaz started working for Debate Report in 2017. Ben grew up in a small town in northern Ontario. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife a year later. Benhas been a proud Torontonian for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for CTV News and the Huffington Post Canada.

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