EDP Sciences
Free access
Issue A&A
Volume 394, Number 3, November II 2002
Page(s) 1119 - 1128
Section The solar system
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20021116

A&A 394, 1119-1128 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20021116

Discovery of X-rays from Mars with Chandra

K. Dennerl

Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik, Giessenbachstraße, 85748 Garching, Germany

(Received 16 July 2002 / Accepted 31 July 2002 )

On 4 July 2001, X-rays from Mars were detected for the first time. The observation was performed with the ACIS-I detector onboard Chandra and yielded data of high spatial and temporal resolution, together with spectral information. Mars is clearly detected as an almost fully illuminated disk, with an indication of limb brightening at the sunward side, accompanied by some fading on the opposite side. The morphology and the X-ray luminosity of ~ $4\mbox{ MW}$ are fully consistent with fluorescent scattering of solar X-rays in the upper Mars atmosphere. The X-ray spectrum is dominated by a single narrow emission line, which is most likely caused by O-K $_{\alpha}$ fluorescence. No evidence for temporal variability is found. This is in agreement with the solar X-ray flux, which was almost constant during the observation. In addition to the X-ray fluorescence, there is evidence for an additional source of X-ray emission, indicated by a faint X-ray halo which can be traced to about three Mars radii, and by an additional component in the X-ray spectrum of Mars, which has a similar spectral shape as the halo. Within the available limited statistics, the spectrum of this component can be characterized by 0.2 keV thermal bremsstrahlung emission. This is indicative of charge exchange interactions between highly charged heavy ions in the solar wind and exospheric hydrogen and oxygen around Mars. Although the observation was performed at the onset of a global dust storm, no evidence for dust-related X-ray emission was found.

Key words: atomic processes -- scattering -- Sun: solar wind -- Sun: X-rays, gamma rays -- planets and satellites: individual: Mars -- X-rays: individual: Mars

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Editor-in-Chief: T. Forveille
Letters Editor-in-Chief: J. Alves
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ISSN: 0004-6361 ; e-ISSN: 1432-0746
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Published by: EDP Sciences

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