On Earth, the Northern Lights are an occurrence that is well-known to those who live far from the equator to witness them. They are a beautiful glow that twists and twirls in different colors at various times of the year. That happens on the basis of atmospheric conditions. In addition, the night sky on Mars glows as well.
Ultraviolet light glows and pulsates in large regions of the night side atmosphere of the Martian planet. That is according to photos from MAVEN – NASA’S spacecraft published on August 6, 2020.
The team behind the MAVEN mission was stunned to discover that the atmosphere was pulsating exactly three times a night. But and only during the spring and fall of Mars. New results also showed unusual waves and spirals over the winter peaks. They also confirmed earlier findings from the Mars Express spacecraft; that this nightglow was the strongest in the winter northern regions.
However, if an astronaut was standing on Mars, this phenomenon, which scientists call a “nightglow”, would not be visible.
That is because the ultraviolet light is invisible to our eyes. But, it can be detected by advanced instruments. This is what Zac Milby of Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics Colorado stated:
“The ultraviolet glow comes mostly from an altitude of about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles), with the brightest spot about a thousand kilometers (approximately 600 miles) across, and is as bright in the ultraviolet as Earth’s northern lights. Unfortunately, the composition of Mars’ atmosphere means that these bright spots emit no light at visible wavelengths that would allow them to be seen by future Mars astronauts. Too bad: the bright patches would intensify overhead every night after sunset, and drift across the sky at 300 kilometers per hour (about 180 miles per hour). “
The group discovered that Mars’ nightglow appears to be the brightest at the peak of the northern and southern winters of the planet. That is when the strongest waves surge away from the equator and toward the poles of the Martian planet.
Nick Schneider of the University of Colorado is the lead instrument for the MAVEN Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) tool that collected this data. But also the lead author of an article on this study. It was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Geophysical Research, Space Physics on 6 August 2020. Schneider stated:
“MAVEN’s images offer our first global insights into atmospheric motions in Mars’ middle atmosphere, a critical region where air currents carry gases between the lowest and highest layers. “
Researchers say that the pulsations show the significance of the waves surrounding the planet in the Mars atmosphere.
The number of waves and their speed reveals the following; that the middle atmosphere of Mars is affected by the daily pattern of solar heating and disruptions from the topography of the vast volcanic mountains of Mars.
Scientists from the MAVEN mission are using new pictures to help brighten specific patterns of circulation in the Martian atmosphere. Sonal Jain, also from the Colorado University Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, says:
“MAVEN’s main discoveries of atmosphere loss and climate change show the importance of these vast circulation patterns that transport atmospheric gases around the globe and from the surface to the edge of space. “
To sum up, recent MAVEN spacecraft pictures show large regions of the night sky of Mars sparkling and pulsating with ultraviolet light.