Sporadic E on the Red Planet

(Source: Inverse)

Thanks to NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission to Mars, you may soon never need to fiddle with the tuning dial on a car radio again.

When we listen to songs on the radio, the sound travels via radio waves that are given out by a transmitter and then received by a receiver — in the case of a car, the car’s antenna is the receiver.

Radio waves travel in the form of electromagnetic radiation from one antenna to the other. The journey, however, isn’t always perfect.

Sometimes, there is a sudden spike in the amount of hot gas in the upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere which causes interference in radio communications. If you are tuned into a favorite station, that could result in static, or for one radio station to be replaced by another.

This phenomenon, known as sporadic E layer, is difficult to study on Earth because that part of the planet’s atmosphere is hard to reach with satellites. As a result, scientists can’t predict when they will occur — leaving us to fiddle with dials.

But thanks to MAVEN, a spacecraft traveling 300 million miles away from our planet, we could finally have the solution.

MAVEN detected sporadic E layer in Mars’ upper atmosphere, and scientists are hoping to be able to use the Red Planet as an off-Earth laboratory to study the phenomenon up close. Already, the data have provided new insights into the cause of radio static, which also affects communications with aircrafts and military radars.[…]

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