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5-species MHD study of Martian proton loss and source


Sun, Wenyi et al. (2023), 5-species MHD study of Martian proton loss and source, Dryad, Dataset,


Although photochemistry-enabled escape of oxygen is a dominant atmospheric loss process at Mars today, ion outflow plays an essential role in the long-term evolution of Mars’ atmosphere. Apart from heavy planetary ions such as O+, O2+, and CO2+, the loss of planetary protons is also important because it could be related to water loss. To study planetary proton loss due to solar wind interaction, we improve the 4-species (O+, O2+, CO2+, and H+) single-fluid magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) model of Mars, to a 5-species (separating planetary protons and solar wind protons) MHD model so that the two types of protons can be tracked separately. The global distributions of solar wind protons and planetary ions at low altitudes are investigated. The calculated planetary proton escape rates are larger than heavy ion loss rates and solar wind proton inflows for both solar maximum and minimum conditions. Planetary proton escape rates are 1–2 orders less than neutral hydrogen loss, suggesting that planetary protons could contribute to no more than 10% of the hydrogen loss under current conditions. By comparing normal cases with cases for which H-O charge exchange reactions or electron impact ionizations are switched off, we find that H-O charge exchange mainly affects densities at low altitudes, while impact ionizations exert great influence on escape rates at high altitudes. The overall results suggest the specific treatment of proton origins in models of Mars atmosphere escape provides better insight into the contributing processes and should be included in future studies focusing on water’s fate.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Award: NNH10CC04C