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Mars skies pulsate and glow when viewed in UV light at night



Ultraviolet night glow of the Martian amosphere.

Ultraviolet night glow of the Martian amosphere.
image:: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Center / CU / LASP

New ultraviolet observations of the Red Planet highlight complex patterns of circulation in the Martian atmosphere, including eerily regular pulses of night light that are invisible to the naked eye.

The Martian atmosphere is very busy when viewed through ultraviolet light, but only like new at night and only during certain times of the year research shows. These pulsating and glowing atmospheric effects are not fully understood, but their presence reminds us that Mars has a really complicated atmosphere.

The new study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Space Physics, was made possible by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Mars since 2014. UVS offers a completely new lens with which to observe the red planet and uncover previously unseen circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere.

The new paper, led by Nick Schneider of the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, analyzed the data collected by the UVS instrument over two consecutive Martian years (one year on Mars equals 687 days on Earth). By studying Mars in ultraviolet light, the researchers were able to visualize the effects of global winds and waves high up in the Martian atmosphere.

“The MAVEN images offer our first global insights into atmospheric movements in the middle Martian atmosphere, a critical region in which air currents transport gases between the lowest and highest layers,” Schneider explained in a NASA Press release.

The night light in the northern polar region.  The cause of the spiral shape remains a mystery.

The night light in the northern polar region. The cause of the spiral shape remains a mystery.
image:: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Center / CU / LASP

These psychedelic Actions known as atmospheric tides are caused by a recombination of nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the nocturnal mesosphere of Mars – the middle layer between the stratosphere and thermosphere. By viewing Mars in UV light, the scientists were able to visualize changes in wind patterns over the different seasons that affect the atmospheric night light. Waves surrounding these planets are also affected by solar heat and topographical disturbances caused by the massive Martian volcanoes, according to research.

In fact, the mountainous volcanic regions on Mars have been known to create some really fascinating and crazy phenomena, including a massive elongated cloud It looks like clockwork over Arsia Mons, a 20 kilometer high volcano near the Martian equator.

“MAVEN’s most important discoveries on atmospheric loss and climate change show the importance of these giant circulation patterns that transport atmospheric gases around the globe and from the surface to the edge of space,” said LASP scientist and study co-author Sonal Jain in the press release .

Interestingly, the atmospheric impulses occur exactly three times a night, but only in spring and autumn. The scientists also documented inexplicable waves and spirals over the winter polar regions, as well as some unusually bright spots over the winter poles.

Infographic explaining the night light phenomenon.

Infographic explaining the night light phenomenon.
image:: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Center / CU / LASP

In these bright areas, gases are pushed down by vertical winds, causing them to travel to regions of higher atmospheric density. This is done to speed up chemical reactions responsible for nitric oxide, which, according to the NASA press release, “drives the ultraviolet glow”. The UV emissions occur predominantly at altitudes of up to 64 km Kilometers) above the surface, with some spots appearing up to 965 miles in size kilometre) In diameter.

T.These emissions are not to be confused with those of Mars eerie green glow– A visible hue caused by the rays of the sun that stimulate oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere. These nocturnal glasses would be invisible to a human observer on the Martian floor. In the future, one possible fun activity for colonists could be to watch these night lights with UV goggles, in a pastime of watching the sky roughly analogous to watching the northern lights on Earth. This would apparently be quite a spectacle as these bright spots are racing across the Martian night sky at a speed of 180 miles per hour (290 kpH).


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