Wow! NASA’s MAVEN photographs bright night sky of Mars — here’s what causes the ‘nightglow’

By: |
August 9, 2020 6:21 PM

NASA’s spacecraft MAVEN which is designed to orbit around Mars in order to study the Red Planet's atmosphere has captured rather intriguing images of Mars’s night sky.

NASA said that over the winter polar regions of the planet, the night glow was found to be the brightest.

NASA’s spacecraft MAVEN which is designed to orbit around Mars in order to study the Red Planet’s atmosphere has captured rather intriguing images of Mars’s night sky. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the atmosphere glowed three times at night and pulsed in ultraviolet lights. The images have offered insight into the Red Planet’s middle atmosphere which carries the gasses between the lowest and highest layers. Further, NASA believes that over the winter polar regions of the planet, the night glow was found to be the brightest.

What causes the bright night glow of Mars?

In a statement issued, NASA explained the brightening of sky usually occurs where vertical winds in Mars’ atmosphere carry the gases downwards to high density regions. This speeds up the chemical reactions and results in creation of nitric oxide which further powers the ultraviolet glow.

It is to note that the pulsations have revealed the importance of waves encircling the planet atmosphere. NASA highlighted that the number of waves as well as their speed pointed out that the planet’s middle atmosphere is affected by the disturbances from the topography and daily pattern of solar heating. According to Sonal Jain at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), MAVEN’s discoveries for climate change and atmospheric loss have indicated vast circulation patterns which allow the atmospheric gases to be transported from the surface of the planet towards the edge of space.

NASA said that Martian nightglow has first been observed by the SPICAM instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. However, MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) has been able to take a better look at the night glow, thus, elaborating on patterns and periodic behavior of Mars’ atmosphere.

Many planets have their own night glow, including Earth. NASA’s MAVEN is the first mission that has collected many images of another planet’s night glow.

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