Scientists have suspected for several decades that Mars is a planet with an atmospheric glow. However, this was first observed only about 10 years ago. This was made possible thanks to the Mars Express probe, which detected a phenomenon in the infrared spectrum. Then the ExoMars TGO orbiter captured it in visible light during the day. Now scientists have boasted a new view of the glow that was captured at night.
The European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter captured the green glow of Mars in visible light at night, and it is the first time the view had been captured in this way. What causes this phenomenon?
The mentioned glow of Mars is somewhat similar in appearance aurora borealis occurring on Earth. The effect is created when charged solar particles collide with the Earth’s magnetic field. However, on the Red Planet, the cause of the phenomenon is different. Scientists explain that it is caused two oxygen atoms combining to form a molecule. The process occurs on altitude of about 50 km from the surface and a side effect is a green glow.
“These new observations are unexpected and interesting for future trips to the Red Planet. The intensity of the night glow in the polar regions is so great that simple and relatively inexpensive instruments in Mars orbit could map and monitor atmospheric flows.” – comments ULiège planetary scientist Jean-Claude Gérard in a statement ESA
The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter will be used for further exploration of Mars. We know that scientists want to use the ship for investigate the composition and dynamics of the upper atmosphere Red Planet located at a distance of 40 to 80 km above the surface. This is because the area is inaccessible to satellites.
ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter is a joint mission of the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. The ship delivered to Mars in 2016 Schiaparelli lander, but it crashed during landing. Then the probe began to descend into lower and lower Martian orbits. Its purpose is, among others, better understanding of the composition of the Red Planet’s atmosphere, including methane content.