Martian thunderstorms form poison


A group of scientists from the University of Washington in St. Louis modeled the processes occurring in the atmosphere of Mars during frequent dust storms there. The result was the hypothesis that atmospheric electrical discharges contribute to the formation of perchlorates – salts of perchloric acid, HClO4.

Perchlorates are traditionally considered poisons. When a decade ago, the Phoenix Lander found them in significant quantities on one of the polar caps of Mars, this was interpreted as a sign that life on the Red Planet was impossible. True, the optimists had already suggested that perchlorates may be traces of the work of Lander jet engines during landing.

In fact, all is not quite so and perchlorates are poisons for most terrestrial organisms, but not for all. Even we on Earth have bacteria that can benefit from this tasteless compound. And about the Martian, we still do not know, because they have not been found. In any case, there are significantly more perchlorates on Mars than on Earth. On Earth, they are formed in small quantities during photochemical reactions. On Mars, it happens differently.

According to scientists, they were able to trace the mechanism of perchlorate formation as a result of atmospheric electrical discharges occurring on Mars during dust storms. Strictly speaking, this is not lightning in the usual sense.

Scientists suggest that atmospheric discharges of static electricity can provide the energy needed to form salts of perchloric acid. This, in general, is similar to the terrestrial mechanism of their formation, taking into account the fact that the Sun on Mars is considerably dimmer, and there are still more perchlorates.