ITC Seminar - Chuanfei Dong (Princeton)


Monday, April 22, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Title: Mars as a Nearby Exoplanetary Laboratory: Solar Wind Interaction, Atmospheric Loss, and Prebiotic Chemistry

Mars has always represented a vital target from the standpoint of planetary science, especially on account of its past, and perhaps even its current, biological potential. In particular, ancient Mars (∼ 4 Ga) has attracted a great deal of attention because it may have possessed aqueous environments with water-rock interactions, minerals, biogenic elements, suitable energy sources for prebiotic chemistry, and possibly oceans; all of these factors could have enhanced its prospects for habitability. However, one of the most striking differences between ancient and current Mars is that the former had a thicker atmosphere compared to the present-day value, thereby making Noachian Mars potentially more conducive to hosting life. This discrepancy automatically raises the question of when and how the majority of the Martian atmosphere was lost, as well as the channels through which it occurred.

In this presentation, I will address these questions beginning with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission and delineate my recent study concerning the Martian response (with a focus on atmospheric loss) to a solar storm by using a sophisticated multifluid magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) code. The concomitant role of solar energetic particles (associated with solar storms) in facilitating prebiotic chemistry on early Mars will also be discussed. If time permits, I will briefly outline the impact of exoplanetary space weather (i.e., stellar winds and stellar magnetic activity) on exoplanetary climate and habitability, which offers fresh insights into potentially habitable exoplanets orbiting M-dwarfs, such as Proxima b and the Earth-sized planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system.
See also: Seminars, 2018 - 19