Plasma acceleration above Martian magnetic anomalies

D. Winningham, Manuel Grande, R. Lundin, S. Barabash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (SciVal)


Auroras are caused by accelerated charged particles precipitating along magnetic field lines into a planetary atmosphere, the auroral brightness being roughly proportional to the precipitating particle energy flux. The Analyzer of Space Plasma and Energetic Atoms experiment on the Mars Express spacecraft has made a detailed study of acceleration processes on the nightside of Mars. We observed accelerated electrons and ions in the deep nightside high-altitude region of Mars that map geographically to interface/cleft regions associated with martian crustal magnetization regions. By integrating electron and ion acceleration energy down to the upper atmosphere, we saw energy fluxes in the range of 1 to 50 milliwatts per square meter per second. These conditions are similar to those producing bright discrete auroras above Earth. Discrete auroras at Mars are therefore expected to be associated with plasma acceleration in diverging magnetic flux tubes above crustal magnetization regions, the auroras being distributed geographically in a complex pattern by the many multipole magnetic field lines extending into space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)980-983
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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