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Assessing possible atmospheric effects of 'Marsquakes'

Shutterstock-217279198 Mars

OU researchers have received funding for a new project which will assess whether gases are released into the atmosphere after a seismic event on Mars.

The UK Space Agency has awarded £274, 514 to the OU to co-lead the Mars Surface/Atmosphere Interactions from Above and Below project, which links the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter detections of gases in the Mars atmosphere with results from the NASA InSight mission, which launched recently.

The project is led by Dr Manish Patel, Senior Lecturer in the OU’s Faculty of Science, Technology and Mathematics (STEM), who is Co-Principal Investigator for the NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery) spectrometer instrument on board the Trace Gas Orbiter which began taking science data around Mars in April this year.

Dr Patel and Professor Stephen Lewis (also in STEM) will collaborate with the University of Oxford on results from a seismometer, which will look for ‘Marsquakes’ and cross-reference with atmospheric composition data from the NOMAD instrument. The researchers will also perform back-tracking of any detected gases using climate models, to try to determine the source of the release.     

“This is the first ever attempt to link a seismic event on Mars with an atmospheric detection,” said Dr Patel. “This is connecting two very different sets of data from two very different missions in a very novel way that could really help us understand what is occurring in the Martian subsurface. For example, if InSight detects a seismic event, and NOMAD then sees a ‘release’ of methane, it could answer one of the biggest questions in Mars research at this time.”

The project will begin on 1 November 2018 and continue until 31 October 2021.

Read about the OU’s role in NOMAD.

Read about OU research in Space Science.

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