United Arab Emirates’ Hope space probe catches ‘amazing new kind of aurora’ on Mars

The team of scientists from the United Arab Emirates Mars exploration project, known as the ‘Emirates Mars Mission’ (EMM), reported last Wednesday that the Mars orbiter Hope managed to capture a “new and surprising type of aurora” Martian.

According to the researchers, observations of this phenomenon will open “new areas to investigate the highly dynamic plasma environment” on the Red Planet. The aurora was observed through one of the three instruments scientists aboard the Hope probe, called the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) at a wavelength of 130.4 nanometers (nm).

Observe an aurora in the form of a worm

The aurora observations, which “are some of the brightest and most extensive seen yet by Hope,” were taken when a solar storm was occurring on Mars, causing “a faster and more turbulent stream of electrons from the solar wind than expected.” usually”. These electrons, which were “energized by electric fields in the magnetosphere of Mars”, impacted against the atoms and molecules that make up “the upper Martian atmosphere”, being able to appreciate the aurora in the images taken by the Emirati space orbiter.

“The sinuous and inconspicuous aurora consists of long, worm-shaped lines of energized electron emission in the upper atmosphere that extend many thousands of kilometers from the day side to the night side of Mars,” say the EMM specialists, who they added that the aurora observations “include elongated shapes,” which are “caused by elongated regions similar to the electron-energizing conditions in the magnetotail.”

The scientific leader of the EMM, Hessa al Matroushi, commented that the first time “the discreet aurora of Mars” was photographed after the Hope probe arrived at the Red Planet last year, he and his team “revealed new potential for observations never before possible on this scale,” so they took the decision to expand the “focus on these auroras”.

“We can get synoptic snapshots of the atmosphere of almost the entire disk to investigate atmospheric phenomena and interactions,” said Al Matroushi, adding that this “means we are seeing discrete auroral effects on large scales and in ways we never anticipated.”

For his part, Rob Lillis, a member of the EMUS instrument team at the University of California at Berkeley (USA), said that “the sinuous and inconspicuous aurora was a shocking discovery in many ways”, but pointed out that it is not yet known. has a rationale for why intense auroras are being “observed in this way and on planetary scales.”

Lillis explained that there is an “opportunity to re-examine previous observations” on the Red Planet made by NASA’s MAVEN space probes and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express, with the purpose of “looking for signatures that can develop the new Hope Probe observations,” to “try to figure out what’s going on.

  • In July 2020, the United Arab Emirates launched the Mars Hope space probe from the Tanegashima Space Center (Japan). Hope entered Mars orbit in February 2021

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