General, Research, Technology

The strange auroras of Mars show climate change on the Red Planet

Auroras - truly impressivea spectacle that can be periodically seen in the high latitudes of our planet. It is known that the aurora is formed during the interaction of particles of the atmosphere of our planet with electrons, protons and ions. When NASA's Maven spacecraft first discovered a similar phenomenon in the atmosphere of the Red Planet in 2016, the researchers were quite surprised by the processes taking place on Mars. In addition, Martian aurora can help scientists track the loss of water from the atmosphere of Mars.

Aerial view of aurora from space

How are auroras formed?

As you know, the auroras on Earth arecolorful manifestations of light and lights in the night sky near the polar regions of the planet, where they are most often called the northern and southern lights. Nevertheless, a similar radiance on Mars occurs not only in the polar zone of a neighboring planet, but also almost everywhere. Lights on Mars occur in the ultraviolet spectrum invisible to the human eye, but they can be easily detected using an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph (IUVS) on the MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) spacecraft.

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According to the task from NASA, the mainMAVEN's mission on the Red Planet is to study water reserves, as well as the causes of its massive loss in the distant past. It is known that the Red Planet did not always have a rusty red color on its surface, however, having lost most of its atmosphere and moisture, Mars turned into a dry and cold inhospitable world. Since the auroras on Mars are indirectly generated by hydrogen residues obtained from Martian water that constantly escapes into space, the detected auroras can be used to track modern losses of the Martian fluid.

Present and Past of Mars

According to the portal, the ultraviolet light of Mars can also tell scientists about climate change in this mysterious world, constantly giving rise to once again doubt its lifelessness. So, all the auroras on Earth and Mars are somehow related to solar activity, whether during explosions of high-speed particles during solar storms or when gusts of solar wind, a continuous stream of which moves in space at a speed of about one and a half million kilometers per hour.

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For example, the northern lights on Earth occurIt is precisely as a result of the violation by the strong solar activity of the integrity of the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing the electrons of the solar wind to crash into gas particles in the upper atmosphere of the dark side of the Earth, while ensuring their active glow. Similar processes lead to the appearance of discrete and diffuse auroras of Mars - two types of auroras that were previously observed only on the Martian dark side.

It is known that during the summer period, Redthe planet is also located at the closest distance from the Sun, simultaneously generating huge dust storms that can completely close the planet from external observations. Researchers are inclined to believe that summer warming and dust activity cause proton auroras, which cause water vapor to rise high into the atmosphere. Extreme solar ultraviolet light breaks down water into the main components - oxygen and hydrogen, the last of which is very weakly connected with the gravity of Mars, easily escaping into space and creating a kind of gas shell above the surface of the planet. A relatively high concentration of hydrogen in the atmosphere of Mars actively reacts to the protons of the solar wind, creating a more frequent and bright aurora.