UAE’s Hope Mars Mission captures new photos of Mars' auroras, shares images
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Mars probe has captured never-before-imaged pictures of auroras around the Red Planet and the country’s space agency shared those photographs. “These three images of atomic oxygen emission at a wavelength of 103.4 nm from the planet Mars were obtained by the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer instrument on 22 April, 23 April, and 06 May 2021 respectively. The full set of data collected during these observations include far and extreme ultraviolet auroral emissions which have never been imaged before at Mars,” the Emirates Mars Mission said on June 30.
Aurora on Mars
Unlike on Earth, glows of aurora could be seen not just at the top and bottom but all around the Red Planet. This is largely because the molten iron in Mars' interior cooled and the magnetic field around had died out, according to a report by the New York Times (NYT). However, some parts in the planet’s crust, which hardened billions of years ago when Mars had a magnetic field, preserved some of the magnetism, causing the phenomenon, the NYT further explained.
“It will allow new doors of study to be opened when it comes to the Martian atmosphere and how it interacts with the solar activity,” NYT quoted the UAE’s science lead for the first interplanetary mission Hessa al-Matroushi as saying on June 30.
While taking pictures of the auroras was not part of the core observations planned for the Hope probe, its high-altitude orbit has enabled it to capture a global view of the night side of Mars too, the NYT further reported.
Difference between Earth and Mars
On Earth, the aurora borealis and aurora australis are observed in the northern and southern polar regions respectively. It is caused when solar particles from the sun are deflected around the planet by its magnetic field, generating shimmering, glowing curtains of colour.
However, on Mars, it can be observed all around the planet. This is because, the earth’s magnetic field is like one bar magnet, while in Mars “it’s more like you took a bag of magnets and dumped them into the crust of the planet,” Dr Justin Deighan of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics explained, the NYT reported.
These disjointed magnetic fields act as lenses to direct the particles from the sun across the Martian atmosphere. Auroras are generated when these particles hit atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere, the report further showed.