The United Arab Emirates Hope probe, which landed on Mars earlier this year, recently captured stunning images of auroras illuminating the Martian sky.
Scientists had been privy to the existence of Mars aurors for some time, but the phenomena had not yet been recorded. Hope used her Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer instrument to capture the northern lights at a wavelength of 103.4 nanometers.
This part of the electromagnetic spectrum has wavelengths that are below visible light but are still longer than X-rays. Mars aurors cannot be perceived by humans. Like the aurora borealis on Earth, those on Mars are created by electrically charged particles that the sun calls ions.
Image from Hope Mission of the UAE
As soon as these ions reach the Martian atmosphere, driven by magnetic fields, they penetrate deeper into the planet’s thin atmosphere. These fields are generated by deposits of magnetized minerals in the Martian crust. The auroras are created after the ions expel oxygen atoms into the sky.
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In a statement last week, the United Arab Emirates said the event “offers an unprecedented perspective on these unique Martian aurors.”
Mars once had a rich and dense atmosphere that allowed liquid water to thrive on its surface. Then the planet was held in place by a global magnetic field like the one on earth.
The dynamo effect persisted on Mars, caused by molten liquid in the planet’s core that, like Earth, rotates around another solid core in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation.
But over time, Mars lost most of its atmosphere, which, according to scientists, is due to the faster cooling of the planet’s core than that of Earth. This made the planet resemble today’s abandoned wasteland.
The United Arab Emirates will publish their scientific data from the ongoing Mars probe in September.
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