Luminous flashes of glowing atomic oxygen in the Red Planet's night sky have been captured by the United Arab Emirates' Hope orbiter spectrometer.
A wonderful and mysterious alien aurora on Mars has been captured by the UAE orbiter Hope, which captured glowing trails of glowing atomic oxygen high in the Martian night sky with its ultraviolet spectrometer. A description of the event can be found on the website of the Emirates Mars Mission, the United Arab Emirates space agency, which explained how "the complete set of data collected during these observations includes distant and extreme ultraviolet auroral emissions that have never before been captured on Mars."
The characteristics of aurora on Mars
The light trails on the Red Planet are on the one hand similar to those seen on Earth and on the other different. The diversity lies in the fact that Mars' aurora has yet to be seen in a spectrum visible to the naked eye and, so far, only instruments capable of seeing through ultraviolet wavelengths have been able to distinguish it. However, Martian auroras would be generated in the same way as those on Earth. Solar wind particles passing through space enter the Martian atmosphere and interact with the gas in the upper atmosphere: oxygen, in the case of Mars. It is the resulting ionization that makes the oxygen glow.
On Earth, these ionized particles travel along our planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles, which is why auroras tend to occur at higher latitudes. But Mars would only have patches of magnetism stored in the magnetized minerals in its crust, which means that the distribution of auroras must be quite different from that of our planet. "The beacons of light that stand out against the dark disk on the night side are highly structured discrete auroras," explained the UAE Space Agency, "where energetic particles excite the atmosphere after being channeled by an irregular network of crustal magnetic fields that originate from minerals on the surface of Mars.
The Hope orbiter images show auroral structures in the Martian atmosphere so detailed that they represent a new tool for mapping and understanding what caused the loss of Mars' magnetic field. Because the loss of the global magnetic field is linked to the subsequent loss of a thick atmosphere, understanding how and why it disappeared is critical to understanding how the Red Planet became uninhabitable for life.
Lately, Mars has been giving so much new information to astronauts and scientists. Recently, a Chinese rover has captured the first sounds recorded on the Red Planet, while Curiosity has photographed mysterious luminous and iridescent clouds.