Like Earth’s Northern Lights, Mars also has its rare aurora visible when solar winds hit its atmosphere. Researchers have even expressed hope that these dancing lights can help track water loss to space from the red planet. NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft first identified this phenomenon on Mars in 2016.
Equipped with an ultraviolet spectrometer (EMUS), the UAE’s Hope probe has captured stunning images of the elusive Martian aurora. Known as the sinuous discrete aurora, this worm-shaped formation is spread halfway across the planet. These visuals can reveal how solar winds interact with Mars’ magnetic fields and its atmosphere.
This is the second time the Hope Probe spotted the discrete aurora since it entered the Martian orbit in 2021. The mission’s science lead Hessa Al Matroushi said that they can now get synoptic images, which provide an unprecedented view of the phenomenon. The pictures present the brightest Martian auroras seen since they were taken during a solar storm.
These long worm-like lights result from electrons from solar winds smashing into atoms and molecules in Mars’ upper atmosphere, 130 kilometers above the surface. An EMUS team member at the University of California, Dr. Rob Lillis highlighted the possibility of reexamining NASA’s observations based on pictures from the Hope probe.
The Emirates Mars Mission has observed three kinds of aurora since it entered the planet’s orbit. The first one, called diffuse aurora, lights up the entire Martian atmosphere. Another one is the discrete aurora seen in recent images. It also observed the proton aurora formed when solar winds interact with hydrogen in Mars’ atmosphere.