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Lightening on Mars?

  1. Feb 22, 2006 #1
    I realize that it doesn't rain on Mars (well, o.k., at least it doesn't appear to have rained on Mars in a *very* long time, and the forecast for rain any time soon isn't all that good), but you don't necessarily have to have rain to have lightening.

    Mars has (at least by Earth standards), some pretty hellacious sand storms, and my guess would be that some of those sand storms are capable of producing equally impressive lightening shows on occasion.

    Is that true? Does Mars have its own dusty versions of "thunderstorms"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2006 #2
    Dumb question?

    23 views and no replies. Hmmm.
    Did I just ask a really dumb question here? Or is it that nobody has the answer? Give it time, somebody will get to it sooner or later? Or...?
  4. Feb 23, 2006 #3


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    I'm not sure how hellacious the sand storm really are. Mars' atmosphere is less than 1% as thick as Earth's, so even a 100 mph wind would feel like a gentle breeze. I read once that a sand storm on Mars is the equavalent of a hazy day on Earth. I'm not sure if that is correct, but how much sand can be blown around by a near-vacuum atmosphere? Enough to give a hazy appearance at least.
  5. Feb 23, 2006 #4
    Deffinitely a point Tony. But when I used the term "hellacious" I was thinking more in terms of size than intensity. My understanding is that Mars is prone to sandstorms that are just, well,.. huge! At least in comparison to sandstorms on Earth.

    But sandstorms aside, do you know anything at all about lightening on Mars?
  6. Feb 23, 2006 #5
    I could be completely wrong here, but I seem to recall NASA saying something about static discharges being detected(or perhaps suspected) to occur in certain Martian duststorms. I think was some concern over the ROVERS safety under those conditions.
    But again, I'm not sure about this. I read so much information that I could have my facts askew.
  7. Feb 23, 2006 #6


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    You might be tniking of this:

    http://powerweb.grc.nasa.gov/pvsee/publications/marslight.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  8. Feb 23, 2006 #7
    Nice, Janus. Great read.
  9. Feb 24, 2006 #8
    Janus, thanks!

    This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I was wondering about. Fabulous paper, absolutely fascinating.

    It appears that the answer to my question is...

    ...nobody knows for sure if lightening storms occur on Mars. They might, but nobody's seen one yet.

    One of the things that I think is just totally cool, is the idea that the first person to actually get to see Martian lightening (if it exists), may well be in for a particularly special treat in that Martian lightening might not look like lightening on Earth.

    Another world, another place, a different place.

    Picture being camped out at night, on the upper slopes of a place like Olympus Mons, watching a sandstorm hundreds of miles away, and hundreds of miles across, with pale flashes like "heat lightening" (or maybe even something nothing like lightening on Earth), playing across the horizon.

    Someday somebody is going to get to see some truly spectacular sights on Mars. I just hope I'm still around to ogle the pics and hear the stories.
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