Strange nighttime glow detected in Martian sky

As the phenomenon ofairglowWhile this nighttime glow that sometimes lights up the sky is well known on Earth, this is the first time it has also been observed on Mars, in a range of wavelengths that would have made it visible to potential explorers of the Red Planet.

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This isn’t the first time strange glows have been spotted in the Martian sky. Glows that are in the ultraviolet range and which unfortunately would not have been detectable by a eyeeye human. But not this time! The latest observation by scientists from the University of Liège shows that the light was indeed emitted in the visible range.

A phenomenon different from the polar auroras

Normally dedicated to mapping the ozone layerozone layer around the planet, the instrument Uvis Nomadpresent on board the satellite Rail Gas Orbiter, accidentally detected strange lights on the Martian night. Observed between 40 and 70 kilometers altitude, this glow is produced by the recombination of atoms ofoxygenoxygen made in theatmosphereatmosphere hot summer on Mars and transported by the windwind to the polar regions of the opposite hemisphere duringwinterwinter. It is in this region that the oxygen atoms, excited by the ultraviolet radiation emitted by the SunSunthen come into contact with moleculesmolecules of CO2. This chemical interaction will produce O molecules2. A molecular recombination that has the peculiarity of emitting light in the visible spectral range. This is a phenomenon of chemiluminescencechemiluminescencewhich is therefore different from that which gives rise to the polar auroras.

A phenomenon that allows us to better understand the atmospheric dynamics of Mars

This phenomenon is well known on Earth (airglow), and has also been observed on VenusVenus. However, this is the first time it has been observed on Mars.

Researchers have already noted the presence of others broadcastsbroadcasts bright in the ultraviolet range. These are said to be related to the recombination of oxygen atoms andnitrogennitrogen formsnitric oxidenitric oxide (NO). The study of these two phenomena could therefore provide a better understanding of the dynamics of the upper atmosphere and its variations during the Martian year. These results have been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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