Meteoric Metal Chemistry in the Martian Atmosphere

Abstract : Recent measurements by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument on NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission show that a persistent layer of Mg+ ions occurs around 90 km in the Martian atmosphere, but that neutral Mg atoms are not detectable. These observations can be satisfactorily modeled with a global ablation rate of 0.06 metric tonnes of magnesium sol-1, out of a cosmic dust input of 2.7 ± 1.6 t sol-1. The absence of detectable Mg at 90 km requires that at least 50% of the ablating Mg atoms ionize through hyperthermal collisions with CO2 molecules. Dissociative recombination of MgO+.(CO2)n cluster ions with electrons to produce MgCO3 directly, rather than MgO, also avoids a buildup of Mg to detectable levels. The meteoric injection rate of Mg, Fe and other metals – constrained by the IUVS measurements - enables the production rate of metal carbonate molecules (principally MgCO3 and FeCO3) to be determined. These molecules have very large electric dipole moments (11.6 and 9.2 Debye, respectively), and thus form clusters with up to 6 H2O molecules at temperatures below 150 K. These clusters should then coagulate efficiently, building up metal carbonate-rich ice particles which can act as nucleating particles for the formation of CO2-ice clouds. Observable mesospheric clouds are predicted to occur between 65 and 80 km at temperatures below 95 K, and above 85 km at temperatures about 5 K colder.
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John M.C. Plane, Juan Diego Carrillo-Sanchez, T. P. Mangan, Matteo M. J. Crismani, Nicholas M. Schneider, et al.. Meteoric Metal Chemistry in the Martian Atmosphere. Journal of Geophysical Research. Planets, Wiley-Blackwell, 2018, 123 (3), pp.695-707. ⟨10.1002/2017JE005510⟩. ⟨insu-01705753⟩

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