According to latest findings, planet Mars has electrically charged metal atoms (ions) high in its atmosphere.
The metal ions can reveal previously invisible activity in the mysterious electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere) of Mars.
MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) is exploring the Martian upper atmosphere.
The metal comes from a constant rain of tiny meteoroids onto the Red Planet. When a high-speed meteoroid hits the Martian atmosphere, it vaporizes.
Metal atoms in the vapor trail get some of their electrons torn away by other charged atoms and molecules in the ionosphere, transforming the metal atoms into electrically charged ions.
MAVEN has detected iron, magnesium, and sodium ions in the upper atmosphere of Mars over the last two years using its Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer instrument, giving the team confidence that the metal ions are a permanent feature.