Tags: oxygen | mars | detected | nasa

Oxygen on Mars Detected by NASA Using High-Flying 747

Image: Oxygen on Mars Detected by NASA Using High-Flying 747
 (Wikimedia/Commons)

By    |   Wednesday, 11 May 2016 07:28 AM

Atomic oxygen has been detected on Mars by NASA and could lead to scientists learning more about its atmosphere and how other gases escape the big red planet.

Scientists found the atoms in the upper layers of Mars atmosphere using an instrument onboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), according to a NASA release. SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope.

CNN said the SOFIA jet was able to fly up to 45,000 feet, above the moisture in Earth's atmosphere that blocks infrared wavelength detection, helping make the discovery.

"Atomic oxygen in the Martian atmosphere is notoriously difficult to measure," said Pamela Marcum, SOFIA project scientist. "To observe the far-infrared wavelengths needed to detect atomic oxygen, researchers must be above the majority of Earth's atmosphere and use highly sensitive instruments, in this case a spectrometer. SOFIA provides both capabilities."

The work on distinguishing oxygen from Earth from the Martian atmosphere was first written about in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics last year.

"For the first time, a far-infrared transition of the atomic oxygen line was detected in the atmosphere of Mars," said the study. "… The lack of other means for monitoring the atomic oxygen in the Martian upper atmosphere makes future observations with the SOFIA observatory highly desirable."

NASA said scientists used the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT) to make the recognition between oxygen from Earth and that found in the Martian atmosphere.

"Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet's atmosphere," NASA said. "Scientists detected only about half the amount of oxygen expected, which may be due to variations in the Martian atmosphere. Scientists will continue to use SOFIA to study these variations to help better understand the atmosphere of the red planet."

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Atomic oxygen has been detected on Mars by NASA and could lead to scientists learning more about its atmosphere and how other gases escape the big red planet.
oxygen, mars, detected, nasa
341
2016-28-11
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 07:28 AM
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