They discover that Mars glows with eerily regular pulses

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Image: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Flight Center / CU / LASP

New ultraviolet observations of the red planet reveal complex circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere, including the existence of night pulses What are they hauntingly regular e invisible to the naked eye.

The Martian atmosphere has a lot of activity when viewed through ultraviolet light, but only at night and only during certain seasons, as a new investigation. These pulsating and glowing atmospheric effects are not fully understoodBut its presence reminds us that Mars has a really complicated atmosphere.

The new study, published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, was made possible by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, which has been in orbit around Mars since 2014. The UVS provides a completely new lens with which to observe the red planet, as reveals never-before-seen circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere.

The new study, led by Nick Schneider of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado, analyzed data collected by the UVS instrument over the course of two consecutive Martian years (one year on Mars equals 687 days on earth). By studying Mars in ultraviolet light, the researchers were able to visualize the effects of winds and atmospheric waves on a global scale high up in the Martian atmosphere.

“The MAVEN images offer our first global view of atmospheric movements in the middle atmosphere of Mars, a critical region where air currents carry gases between the lower layers and the lower layers. higher, ”explained Schneider in a statement from the NASA.

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Image: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Flight Center / CU / LASP

These psychedelic actions, known as atmospheric tides, are formed from a recombination of nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the mesosphere on the nightside of Mars, the layer between the stratosphere and the thermosphere. By viewing Mars in ultraviolet light, the scientists were able to visualize changes in wind patterns throughout the different seasons, which influence atmospheric night glows. These waves that surround the planet are also influenced by solar heat and topographic alterations caused by gigantic volcanoes. from Mars, according to the study.

In fact, the mountainous volcanic regions of Mars are known to produce some really fascinating and strange phenomena, including a huge elongated cloud that reappears like clockwork over Arsia Mons, a 20-kilometer-high volcano located near the Martian equator.

“MAVEN’s main discoveries on atmospheric loss and climate change show the importance of these vast circulation patterns that transport atmospheric gases around the planet. and from the surface to the edge of space ”, he explains LASP scientist and study co-author Sonal Jain in press release.

Interestingly, atmospheric pulses occur exactly three times every night, but only during spring and fall. Scientists also documented unexplained waves and spirals over the winter polar regions, along with some unusually bright spots seen over the winter poles.

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Image: NASA / MAVEN / Goddard Space Flight Center / CU / LASP

In these bright areas, gases are pushed down by vertical winds, causing them to enter regions with higher atmospheric density. This serves to speed up the chemical reactions responsible for nitric oxide, which “fuels the ultraviolet glow,” according to the NASA press release. Ultraviolet ray emissions occur predominantly at altitudes that reach 64 kilometers above the surface, and some patches are huge, up to 965 kilometers diameter.

These emissions should not be confused with the mysterious green glow caused by the rays of the sun exciting oxygen molecules in the upper atmosphere. For a human observer on Martian soil, these shows nocturnal would be invisible. In the future, a possible fun activity for the colonists of Mars it would be to see these night glows with UV glasses, a pastime to observe the sky more or less analogous to seeing the northern lights on Earth. Apparently, this would be quite a spectacle, as these bright patches streak across the Martian night sky at speeds that 290 km / h.

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