This image illustrates Mars Global Surveyor studying the planet.
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Image from: NASA/JPL
The Martian Ionosphere
The Martian ionosphere is a layer of gas composed of ions and electrons that
extends from about 75 miles up to several hundred miles up above the surface. The layer is shown schematically by the shaded region circling the planet (not to scale). Temperatures in this region are very hot. Unlike the Earth's ionosphere, the Martian ionosphere is not shielded from the solar
wind by a strong planetary magnetic field. New measurements by Mars Global Surveyor show that the magnetic field of Mars is weak. This region may have a complicated interaction with the Martian magnetosphere.
Measurements by Mars Global Surveyor will help scientists study
Mars' ionosphere and compare it with those of Earth and Venus. The ionosphere of Mars was even used to help brake the spacecraft and place it into a circular orbit.
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