Scientists detect Martian meteor showers

April 6th, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 6 (IANS) Scientists have for the first time detected a storm of shooting stars on Mars. And they are now confident of predicting meteor showers on the planet - just as they do on earth. The Martian meteor shower was detected, indeed predicted, by scientists at the Armagh Observatory when they calculated when the orbit of Mars would intersect with debris from the comet 79P/du Toit-Hartley.

“Just as we can predict meteor outbursts at earth, such as the Leonids, we can also predict when meteor showers are going to occur at Mars and Venus,” scientist Apostolos Christou informed the National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast.

“We believe that shooting stars should appear at Venus and Mars with a similar brightness to those we see at earth. However, as we are not in a position to watch them in the Martian sky directly, we have to sift through satellite data to look for evidence of particles burning up in the upper atmosphere,” Christou said.

Meteor showers provide insights into the age, size and composition of particles ejected from the comet’s nucleus, the ejection velocity, as well as general information about the structure and history of the comet itself.

Roughly four times more comets approach the orbit of Mars than the earth’s and a high proportion of these are Jupiter Family Comets. Mars therefore offers a significant opportunity to improve our understanding of meteor showers and Jupiter Family Comets.

When meteor particles burn up in a planet’s atmosphere, metals contained within them are ionised to form a layer of plasma. On earth, this layer has an altitude of approximately 95-100 km and on Mars the layer is predicted to be around 80-95 km above the Martian surface.

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