ELF on Mars

The electrical properties of the subsurface of Mars and atmosphere, including detection of ground water reservoirs and the activity of discharges on Mars are important goals for future Martian exploration related to life and resources. The current lack of these data may be complemented by inexpensive and simple to carry out measurements, which use electromagnetic waves propagation in the ELF range.

Owing to low attenuation of ELF waves, one measuring station is enough to conduct basic research. On Mars, due to lack of water in the liquid state at the planetary surface, the ground has a very weak electric conductivity, allowing ELF waves subsurface penetration to a depth of tens of kilometers. This situation is strongly reflected in the propagation parameters of the ground-ionosphere waveguide, and makes ELF techniques particularly predisposed to subsurface investigation.

The aim of our planetary project is to study natural sources of ELF waves and their propagation in the ground-ionosphere waveguide on Mars. The project involves studying of electrical discharges, Schumann resonance phenomenon, interaction amid induced magnetosphere, ionosphere, crustal remanent magnetization and solar wind, as well as the structure of the ionosphere and the subsurface of the planet.

We have been developing techniques and instruments that allow investigating natural sources of ELF waves, if they take place on Mars. We have designed magnetic and electric broad bandwidth sensors that permit detecting even low-intensity sources. We have been studying some theoretical models of the Martian waveguide and the relationship between properties of the Martian environment and the ELF propagation parameters. As our developed analytical method is computationally efficient and useful to find inverse solutions, it takes minutes to acquire results for different environmental models.

Our approach can be use not only to explore the Martian environment, but also environments of other planets and moons, that have electromagnetic cavities.