The Origin of Observed Magnetic Variability for a Sol on Mars From InSight

Research areas:
planetary magnetism, Mars, InSight, ionosphere
  • A. Mittelholz
  • C. L. Johnson
  • S. N. Thorne
  • S. Joy
  • E. Barrett
  • M. O. Fillingim
  • F. Forget
  • Benoit Langlais
  • C. T. Russell
  • A. Spiga
  • S. Smrekar
  • W. B. Banerdt
Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets
e2020JE006505 10.1029/2020JE006505
Abstract Day-night variations in the magnetic field at Mars have been previously observed at satellite altitudes. The InSight Fluxgate Magnetometer (IFG) has provided the first evidence for diurnal magnetic field variations at the martian surface. IFG data show diurnal variations with typical peak amplitudes of 20–40nT in the early morning to midmorning; the amplitude of the magnetic field varies over the first 389 sols of the mission and peaks between sols 50 and 100. Temperature variations, solar array currents, and lander activities all generate magnetic fields. Particularly, the first two of these also produce signals with clear diurnal variations. We first assess the IFG data calibration and conclude that temperature and solar array currents have only minimal effects on the variability we observe in the final calibrated magnetic field data. We use satellite magnetic field data and a Mars global circulation model to make predictions for the temporal evolution of wind-driven fields in the ionosphere. Such fields vary due to seasonal changes in the ionization profile and the winds, and in the altitude range of the dynamo region, that is, the region in which electric currents can be produced. We find that the amplitude and seasonal variability of the surface magnetic fields are generally consistent with those predicted from wind-driven currents. Moreover, a regional dust storm in the vicinity of the InSight landing site, which started around sol 45, might be responsible for the higher magnetic field amplitudes observed in the IFG data in the early part of the mission.