Small Electrical Sparks Are Possible on Mars

Small Electrical Sparks Are Possible on Mars
(NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

If experiments done in small bottles in a University of Oregon lab are accurate, the friction of colliding Martian dust particles are unlikely to generate big electrical storms or threaten the newly arrived exploration vehicles or, eventually, human visitors.

For 50 years since Viking landers and later orbiters detected silts, clays, wind-blown bedforms and dust devils on Mars, scientists have worried about the potential for large lightning storms and whether static electricity generated by the planet’s mostly basaltic rock particles could damage vehicles or human protective gear.

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