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Atomic Oxygen on Mars Detected by NASA's Airborne Telescope, 'SOFIA'

May 09, 2016 01:29 AM EDT
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NASA has dedicated an intense amount of research time, funding and resources to carefully scrutinize available information about Mars. Recently, the airborne telescope, Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), detected some atomic oxygen within the atmosphere of Mars.

SOFIA positively confirmed that they have detected a small amount of atomic oxygen on Mars.

"To observe the far-infrared wavelengths needed to detect atomic oxygen, researchers must be above the majority of Earth's atmosphere and use highly sensitive instruments, in this case a spectrometer. SOFIA provides both capabilities" said Pamela Marcum, SOFIA project scientist.

  

According to NASA, the presence of atomic oxygen is integral in the behavior of elements in the Martian atmosphere.

"Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet's atmosphere," declared NASA.

Scientists will then proceed to the next stage of study with their new findings gathered by SOFIA. The atomic oxygen is difficult to quantify, but thanks to SOFIA, the available data can potentially aid scientist in their research.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is the world's largest airborne observatory. It is installed inside a modified version of a Boeing 747 which is capable of flying higher than a normal commercial plane to enable the spacecraft to perform astronomical behaviors, according to a report by Discovery News.

SOFIA has been reporting for duty for some time now and has observed in various NASA space missions projects.

"The advanced detectors on one of the observatory's instruments, the German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies (GREAT), enabled astronomers to distinguish the oxygen in the Martian atmosphere from oxygen in Earth's atmosphere" said the SOFIA Science Center, NASA's Ames Research Center.

 

Because of the recent findings, scientist and researchers can compare the atomic oxygen of Mars to the Earth's oxygen composition and their properties.  It could also possibly assist them in creating a more 'livable' environment for the scheduled mission to Mars.

Currently, SOFIA and NASA are accepting space proposals for space technology projects needing the help of an airborne telescope.

 

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