Detecting electrical activity from Martian dust storms


  • W. M. Farrell,

  • M. L. Kaiser,

  • M. D. Desch,

  • J. G. Houser,

  • S. A. Cummer,

  • D. M. Wilt,

  • G. A. Landis


We present a model addressing the possible electrification of Martian dust storms based on the effective electrical charging of an individual dust grain. An upper charge bound on a grain can be determined based on the grain capacitance in the low-pressure Martian atmosphere. It is assumed that treiboelectric and inductive processes, like that presumed operating in terrestrial dust storms, can electrify the grain to significant levels. A collection of such grains charged in a dust cloud of many tens of kilometers in size can yield a substantial electric field moment. Given various grain charge and dust storm sizes, the electric moment will be determined along with estimates of electrical discharge and emitted radio power based upon known models. We also suggest the possibility that remote detection of discharge-related VLF emission propagating in the surface/ionosphere waveguide can be used to determine subsurface conductivity.