(ORDO NEWS) — The Russian device on board the orbiter of the ExoMars-2016 mission was for the first time able to detect hydrogen chloride in the atmosphere of Mars by direct measurements, this discovery speaks of the mechanisms of interaction between the surface and the atmosphere of the Red Planet unknown to scientists, according to the Roscosmos website.
“For the first time in the atmosphere of Mars, hydrogen chloride has been detected by direct measurements. The discovery was made by the Russian spectrometer Atmospheric Chemistry Suite (Complex for studying the chemistry of the atmosphere) of the Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft of the Russian-European project ExoMars-2016,” the statement says.
It is noted that the substance appeared during a global dust storm, and after its end, it gradually disappeared.
“The fact that chlorine was registered during a dust storm makes it possible to assume the existence of an interaction between the surface and the atmosphere, which was not taken into account earlier. Analogs to it can be found on Earth, some indirect confirmation was found in laboratory experiments,” the website says Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Scientific Supervisor of the Russian experiment, Deputy Director of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences Oleg Korablev.
Up to this point, it was known about the existence of hydrogen chloride (HCl) on Earth and Venus. On our planet, it gets into the air from the sea when the particles of sea salts are converted into aerosol. On Venus, it decays in the atmosphere under the influence of sunlight and becomes one of the main factors in the stability of the carbon dioxide atmosphere.
“This is the first time a halogen gas has been recorded in the atmosphere of Mars, and it is a witness to an entirely new chemical cycle that we have to understand,” said University of Oxford professor Kevin Olsen.
According to two main hypotheses about the appearance of hydrogen chloride, its sources can be dust particles raised from the surface, or active volcanism. Small amounts of hydrogen chloride are also released during eruptions on Earth. But in this case, the increase in the concentration of this gas should correspond to seismic events on Mars, which scientists have not yet noticed.
“In addition, good coincidence in time with the beginning and end of dust storms suggests that the chlorine source is still” on the surface “, – emphasized in Roscosmos.
TGO (Trace Gas Orbiter, orbiter for the study of trace gases) – Mars probe, part of the ExoMars project. One of its main tasks is to search for gases that could indicate volcanic and, possibly, biological activity on Mars. Their concentration should be very low, which is why a record sensitivity is required from instruments on board. Along with ACS, the Belgian spectrometric complex NOMAD is engaged in this.
The mechanism of the “transformation” of chlorine from a constituent part of Martian minerals into gaseous hydrogen chloride is still unclear – as well as the answer to the question of where hydrogen chloride disappears after a dust storm.
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