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Chapman Conference on the Solar Wind Interaction with Mars

Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, California, USA
22–25 January 2008


Program Committee


Conference Objectives

A Final Program [PDF] is available.

The interaction of the solar wind with the Martian atmosphere has been studied and measured for more than four decades. However, the number of measurements of this interaction has increased by orders of magnitude over the last decade. Now, many relevant data exist, including two-point in situ observations with Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Express. At the same time, models of the interaction have reached the resolution and completeness that the entire system, from the solar wind down to the atmosphere, can be included in a single model. These models have advanced to the point that they could and should be compared with each other and with in situ measurements (community-wide modeling comparison activity). In addition, the Martian solar wind interaction shares many characteristics with a variety of solar system bodies (such as Venus, comets, Titan, Enceladus, the Moon, and even Earth), and has been compared in different ways to each of them. Similar instrumentation on spacecraft studying plasma-body interactions throughout the solar system and versatile models facilitate comparisons of these different environments (e.g. Cassini, Venus Express, Lunar Prospector, Giotto) for the mutual benefit of understanding what factors are important in the interactions.

This Chapman Conference will provide a focused forum for the scientists involved in the study of the solar wind interaction with Mars and other bodies to gather, exchange ideas, cooperate in research, and disseminate results. This conference will specifically address the following science questions:

  1. How is the structure of the interaction region formed and maintained?
  2. How do crustal magnetic fields affect the interaction locally and globally?
  3. How does the interaction affect upper atmospheric structure and escape?
  4. How do models implement the physics and variability of the system?
  5. How does the Martian environment compare to other solar system bodies?

When exploring these science questions, three unifying themes emerge: variability in the Martian solar wind interaction; long-term evolution of the system; and fundamental plasma processes. Participants are encouraged to directly address these topics and themes in their presentations, and in publications submitted to a proceedings volume (TBD) from the conference.


Each of the science questions listed above will serve as a session topic for the conference. Below, we provide a brief description of each science question, and three sample subtopics that may be covered within each session—one for each of the unifying themes of the meeting.

Topic #1: Structure of the Martian Plasma Environment

It is well known that the solar wind interaction with the Martian atmosphere creates a number of distinct plasma regions and boundaries, identified by characteristic signatures in particles and fields measurements. A main goal of this session is the integration of the many spacecraft measurements with each other and with recent modeling results in order to move from a phenomenological description of the system to a physical one.

Sample Subtopics:

Topic #2: Crustal Fields and Their Effects

Strong crustal magnetic fields perturb the solar wind interaction locally (and perhaps globally), affecting the location of plasma boundaries, creating complex ionospheric current patterns, and enabling aurora at Martian mid-latitudes. This session will explore the ways in which crustal fields modify the otherwise Venus-like solar wind interaction at Mars.

Sample Subtopics:

Topic #3: Upper Atmospheric Structure and Atmospheric Loss

Since Mars lacks a global magnetic field the solar wind deposits energy directly into the upper atmosphere in regions lacking crustal fields. The upper atmosphere, in turn, provides the obstacle for the solar wind. This session will examine the many observed and expected influences of the solar wind on the upper atmosphere, and vice versa.

Sample Subtopics:

Topic #4: Modeling the Interaction

Advances in computing resources in the past decade have enabled increasingly sophisticated models of the global solar wind interaction at Mars. Global simulations, properly validated, may be used to place spacecraft observations in context and to compare how different physical assumptions (MHD, kinetic, etc.) affect the simulated structure of the Martian plasma environment. This session will focus on results from a variety of global simulations and comparing them to observations. We invite the community to participate in the SWIM Model Challenge.

Sample Subtopics:

Topic #5: Comparative Planetology

The Martian interaction has many shared characteristics (e.g. ionospheric obstacle, mass-loading, mini-magnetospheres, auroral processes, etc.) with the plasma interactions at other bodies. Therefore, it is useful to compare and contrast these features among the different solar system bodies in order to understand how different conditions influence the physics of the interaction. Two sessions will be devoted to this important topic.

Sample Subtopics:

Format and Schedule

These science questions will be addressed over four days through 6 half day, oral sessions with invited and contributed talks. Each oral session will conclude with a summary by the session chair of the important points and unanswered questions raised in the session, especially as they pertain to the themes of the conference. Wednesday evening will host a poster session (5:25–7:30 p.m.). With refreshments provided to keep both the presenters and the viewers going, we allot plenty of time to allow poster presenters to also view other posters. Presenters will be given an opportunity to give a short summary of their poster in an oral session. There will be a conference banquet on Thursday evening from 6:30–9:30 pm. This schedule leaves several afternoons free for the participants to meet informally or to explore San Diego's many activities.

Further Information

If you have questions or would like to be placed on a mailing list (be sure to include the name of the meeting you are interested in), E-mail or call the AGU Meetings Department at +1-202-777-7332.