Image from NASA
I am very excited about the MAVEN mission that should be launching this coming Monday(November 18th of 2013.) MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN. MAVEN is an orbiter that should reach Mars in September of 2014. It will then begin its mission, taking an elliptical orbit that should pass through several layers of the upper atmosphere and ionosphere. It will be collecting data from the upper atmosphere, ionosphere and the interactions with the sun and solar wind.
"The atmosphere of Mars is less than 1% of Earth’s, so it does not protect the planet from the Sun’s radiation nor does it do much to retain heat at the surface."Read more At Universe Today: Atmosphere of Mars
Since Mars no longer has a magnetosphere the solar winds strip away the atoms of the atmosphere. I find magnetospheres and their interactions with their planets and the planets atmosphere fascinating. For more information on the atmosphere on Mars read the quoted article. For information about atmospheres in general also check out the Astronomy Cast episode #151 Atmospheres. There are eight instruments on this NASA orbiter including a pair of magnetometers and a neutral gas and ion mass spectrometer. You can find a list of all the instruments and updates on the mission at the NASA website. If you are interested in watching the launch also, you should be able to watch it at NASA TV. Don't be surprised if I am tweeting with excitement about updates on this great mission.
|Image from NASA|