Mission to Mars - 02: Magnetic Field


OPENING QUESTION: Hopefully you are reading this with a friend online:


  • Sol (The Sun's proper name)
  • Solar System (Everything that orbits Sol, our sun)
  • Mars (The 4th planet from the sun)
  • Magnetic Field (Lines of magnetic force)
  • Atmosphere (Gas surrounding a planet or <on rare occasions, moons>)


Please do watch "The Martian" if you have access to it.

Also, please watch the first episode of "Mars" if you have streaming on Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix (it's FREE there!)


Yesterday's work was ALL about how the solar system formed:

A "solar nebula" is set in motion by a supernova:

Small object collide and stick together to make bigger objects. Occasionally rather big objects collide to make even bigger objects (Like the Earth/Theia collision shown below)

The heat from those collisions left the planets with very, very hot cores...

Which brings us to today's work:


Hopefully, it comes as little surprise that there are four "inner" planets-- Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars that are all rocky planets with very hot cores. It's not just that they are hot, however, it is that they are hot and at least part of the cores are liquid/molten.

The Earth has a solid, "inner core" surrounded by a liquid/molten "outer core"

That is a KEY aspect of today's work.

You may know that metals like nickel and iron found in planetary cores are atoms that generally don't hold on to their outermost electrons all that tightly. In other words, in an environment such as the molten "outter core" of the Earth (and the other inner rocky planets) there are staggering amounts of charged particles that are constantly moving around and around in circles as the planet rotates.

Ask your studdy buddy <with whom you are NO DOUBT reviewing this material>

"Hey friend, What is the definition of electrons moving around and around and around a fixed position?????"


The surprising answer (perhaps?) is electric current, which we commonly call electricity.

Just as with an electric current running in the wires of our homes, the electric current moving around and around Earth's outer core generates a magnetic field that reaches out into space:

The same process occurs in each of the planets, to varying degrees:


Soooo... why is that magnetic field sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo important to the Earth?

Here's what Khan Academy has to say



We know from our probes, measurements and observations that Mars has a very weak magnetic field.

What does that infer about the Martian core (or outer core)? Please have a conversation about that with your studdy buddy.



You might have suggested that Mars doesn't have the same dynamic systems present in it's core (or outer core) as the Earth.... and you'd be spot on correct?


But wait a sec....


Mars has the largest volcano (Olympus Mons which means "Mt Olympus"). It is over 16 miles high and at its base covers about the same area as the state of Arizona.

Close by are a string of the massive "Tharsis" volcanoes:

Once again we have a problem... we have very strong visual evidence of MASSIVE volcanoes on Mars, which indicates a very active core/outer core. And yet... a very weak magnetic field?

Once again... what gives?

Work with your studdy buddy to suggest an explanation





HAH! I'm not going to tell you!!! (yet)


The point of this exercise is familiarize you with the fact that Mars has a very weak magnetic field.

That means that we as human beings, along with any crops or animals we try to grow under domes or in buildings on Mars would be extremely vulnerable to high energy particles from the Sun or deep space.

Although a massive, lethal storm of particles is possible.. the bigger danger lies in the constant, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, year-by-year exposure to that particles that is very dangerous to living cells.


Closing Question:

What visible evidence do we have of the existence of a strong magnetic field on Earth?


Want a hint?



Here's a tougher conundrum:

If the Earth generates magnetic fields that protect us from charged particles from the sun.... could we create a magnetic field generator of our own that we could wear that would keep us safe from such charged particles if we were on Mars?

Do a wee bit of research and submit a paragraph to our regular submission page HERE (physics) or HERE (aerospace)