Aug 23, 2020

Astronomers Mystified by Eerie Phenomenon on Mars: Ultraviolet “Nightglow” Spreads Across the Planet’s Sky Every Night

Posted by in categories: chemistry, space travel

This is an image of the ultraviolet “nightglow” in the Martian atmosphere over the south pole. Green and white false colors represent the intensity of ultraviolet light, with white being the brightest. The nightglow was measured at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude by the Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph instrument on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, and the faint white area in the center of the image is the polar ice cap. The image shows an unexpectedly bright glowing spiral in Mars’ nightside atmosphere. The cause of the spiral pattern is unknown. Credit: NASA/MAVEN/Goddard Space Flight Center/CU/LASP

Every night on Mars, when the sun sets and temperatures fall to minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit and below, an eerie phenomenon spreads across much of the planet’s sky: a soft glow created by chemical reactions occurring tens of miles above the surface.

An astronaut standing on Mars couldn’t see this “nightglow”—it shows up only as ultraviolet light. But it may one day help scientists to better predict the churn of Mars’ surprisingly complex atmosphere.

Leave a reply