Saturday, July 31, 2021

Auroras On Mars From the UAE Hope Mission

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth and Space Sciences, Solar System, Astrophysics, Cosmology, History of Science, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

As surely as day follows night aurora from another planet appears. And I just posted one on Jupiter. So it goes.

The Hope spacecraft provided the image. It is a mission of the United Arab Emirates Mars orbiter that arrived in February 2021, the Arab's world first mission to another planet. 

As this brief report in the journal Nature points out "it has taken the most detailed pictures yet of the 'discrete auroras' of Mars." A scientific paper has not yet been published but is planned. They are seen via a spectrometer and occur "when solar wind runs into magnetic fields that emanate from Mars's crust. Charged particles then collide with oxygen in the upper atmosphere, causing it to glow." The images are a bonus and are not part of the primary mission.

Davide Castelvecchi report includes a comment from planetary scientist Nick Schneider on the significance of the images. "'From my work on the topic, I immediately recognized the way the aurorae draw and outline around the last vestiges of Mars' decaying field. These images really capture the fact that Mars has lost its global field, the suspected cause of the disappearance of its earlier thick atmosphere.'"

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