The spacecraft captures the "green light" of Mars

Katie Ramirez
June 17, 2020

This green glow effect is quite faint, but astronauts aboard the International Space Station have the best seats in the house to view the phenomenon happening on Earth.

However, unlike in the Monday release, the rover previously managed to obtain another group of images in 2014 that showed a much brighter Earth lighting up the Martian night sky.

An orbiting spacecraft has detected a odd green glow on Mars that had previously only been seen on one planet - Earth.

The green glow is not to be confused with the auroras; the multi-coloured, moving light shows that can be seen near the poles here on Earth.

The European Space Agency's orbiter has been circling Mars for almost four years and has recently made an astonishing discovery - glowing green oxygen in the atmosphere. This interaction creates an inconspicuous but continuous light. Planets like Earth and Mars glow constantly - both during the day and at night - as sunlight interacts with different molecules. "More specifically, from oxygen atoms emitting a particular wavelength of light that has never been seen around another planet", said Jean-Claude Gerard of the Universite de Liege, Belgium, and lead author of the study published in Nature Astronomy.

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"Previous observations hadn't captured any kind of green glow at Mars, so we made a decision to reorient the [ultraviolet and visible spectrometer]... to point at the "edge" of Mars, similar to the perspective you see in images of Earth taken from the ISS", explained Ann Carine Vandaele from the the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy in an ESA press release. Some of the orbiter's instruments, collectively called NOMAD (Nadir and Occupation for Mars Discovery), were reported to the Martian surface during orbit. Dr Patel is the co-principal investigator on Nomad's ultraviolet and visible spectrometer. The altitude it ranged from 20 to 400 kilometers (12.4 to 249 kilometers) from the planet's surface. What's triggering the glow is that carbon dioxide gets separated from carbon monoxide and oxygen when solar radiation hits the atmosphere of Mars.

Earth and Venus, as seen from the surface of Mars. Mars' Tower Butte is visible at bottom.

"This suggests that we have more to learn about how oxygen atoms behave, which is extremely important for our understanding of atomic and quantum physics", Gérard said. Studying the brightness of planetary atmospheres can provide a wealth of information on atmospheric composition and dynamics, and reveal how energy is deposited by sunlight. They saw the glow of green oxygen at all heights, but they caught the strongest at an altitude of 80 km and this force varies according to Mars' distance from the Sun.

Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars.

The second part of the ExoMars mission, delayed to 2020, will deliver a rover to Mars' surface.

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