The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has revealed how oddly ‘light’ carbon monoxide forms in Mars’ atmosphere. The finding paints a better picture of how carbon-containing matter can be formed on the Red Planet without life, and helps clarify a puzzling discovery made by NASA’s Curiosity rover last year.
The TGO observations show that a process at play in Mars’ atmosphere – where carbon dioxide is split apart by sunlight – forms carbon monoxide containing less ‘heavy’ carbon than we would expect.
The finding is consistent with the idea that a combination of sunlight and complex chemistry, rather than life, gave rise to the carbon-based compounds (‘organic matter’) we see on the martian surface.
The NOMAD team SWT#23 was held in Matsushima, Japan. Thanks to everyone for an amazing week!
Raphaël Liégeois from Namur, Belgium, has been selected by the European Space Agency. He is now part of the new class of ESA astronauts, unveiled yesterday afternoon in Paris.
Raphaël studied biomedical engineering at the University of Liège, Belgium. He also became Ingénieur Centralien as part of a double degree exchange programme with the École Centrale Paris, France and earned a master’s degree in fundamental physics from the University Paris-Sud Orsay, France. During his studies in Paris, he took part in a parabolic flight campaign with French space agency CNES to test a physics experiment.
The Europlanet Society had a poster and a stand with meteorites samples at the BIRA-IASB Open Doors during the weekend of 24-25 October.
Members of the Planetary Atmospheres Group were present at the BIRA-IASB Open Doors during the weekend of 24-25 October.
Several partners of the RoadMap H2020 project were attending the EPSC Conference. A dedicated session, "", organized by the project's main partners was held with a poster session on Maonday and oral sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The aim of this session was to bring together scientists involved in modelling and observing Martian dust and clouds, from the lab to the analysis of space data. We will consider presentations on observations, field and laboratory experiments covering different aspects of dust and clouds, such as aeolian processes, dust lifting, sedimentation, scavenging, nucleation, aggregation, optical properties including scattering characterization, etc, but also on modeling of these processes from the perspective of implementation in radiative transfer codes or Global Circulation models.
Dr. Nigel Mason (President of the Europlanet Society) and Dr. Ann Carine Vandaele (President Elect of the Europlanet Society) presented the objectives of the Europlant Society and introduced the recent developments in its structure during the morning briefing on Thursday 22 September.
The Europlanet General Assembly is the annual forum for Europlanet Society members (and non members) to learn about the activities of the Europlanet Society which also runs EPSC and is integral to the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure. To learn about our activities, plans for the future and how you can get involved in the Society's activities please come along to the General Assembly. During the General Assembly of the Europlanet Society, the activities held by the different committees were summarized. The results of the recent elections were also announced.
Dr. Séverine Robert was the convener of the Keynote Lecture
The James Webb Space Telescope captured its first images and spectra of Mars on September 5, 2022. The telescope’s remarkable infrared sensitivity provides a unique perspective on our neighboring planet, complementing data collected by orbiters, rovers, and other telescopes.
Because it is so close, the Red Planet is one of the brightest objects in the night sky in terms of both visible light (which human eyes can see) and the infrared light that Webb is designed to detect. This poses special challenges to the facility, which was built to detect the extremely faint light of the most distant galaxies in the universe. Webb’s instruments are so sensitive that without special observing techniques, the bright infrared light from Mars is saturating the detector.
BELSPO, the Belgian federal science policy office, has created a virtual expo describing the long journey of NOMAD from first concept to current mission around Mars.
By combining observations from three international spacecraft at Mars, scientists were able to show that regional dust storms play a huge role in drying out the Red Planet.
Dust storms heat up higher altitudes of the cold Martian atmosphere, preventing water vapor from freezing as usual and allowing it to reach farther up. In the higher reaches of Mars, where the atmosphere is sparse, water molecules are left vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation, which breaks them up into their lighter components of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen, which is the lightest element, is easily lost to space, with oxygen either escaping or settling back to the surface.
ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has detected glowing green oxygen in Mars’ atmosphere – the first time that this emission has been seen around a planet other than Earth. “One of the brightest emissions seen on Earth stems from night glow. More specifically, from oxygen atoms emitting a particular wavelength of light that has never been seen around another planet,” says Jean-Claude Gérard of the Université de Liège, Belgium, and lead author of the new study published in Nature Astronomy. “However, this emission has been predicted to exist at Mars for around 40 years – and, thanks to TGO, we’ve found it.”
Searching for biomarkers on Mars is a primary goal of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter. A key biomarker of interest is methane, as much of the methane found on Earth is produced by living things or geological activity – and so the same may be true for Mars.
The ‘methane mystery’ on Mars has been ongoing for many years, with contradictory findings from missions including ESA’s Mars Express and NASA’s Curiosity rover capturing sporadic spikes and bursts of the gas in Mars’ atmosphere, fluctuations both in orbit and at the planet's surface, signs of the gas varying with the seasons, or not observing any methane at all.