Two of the three views of Mars's discrete auroras as they stand out in the dark nightside of the Red Planet. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission

UAE’s Spacecraft Orbiting Mars Snaps Stunning Image of Mars’ Discrete Aurora

UAE's Hope probe, which had been silent on Mars for months, finally sent its first scientific result - unique images of auroras in the planet's atmosphere.

The United Arab Emirates’ Mars Science Probe Hope has finally sent its first scientific results – photographs of auroras that appear on the planet’s nighttime side.

The probe was sent to Mars almost simultaneously with the American and Chinese rovers in the launch window in July 2020, and in February 2021, all three spacecraft reached their target.

By now, both rovers have landed on the surface. At the same time, the whole world has long been discussing the successes of the American helicopter sent along with the Perseverance rover. At the same time, there has been no news about the success of the Arab apparatus in the planet’s orbit for months.

These are three images of atomic oxygen radiation at a wavelength of 103.4 nanometers from the planet Mars, obtained using an ultraviolet spectrometer. The auroras of Mars have never been captured in this way in the past. It is specified that the orbital images were taken on April 22, 23 and May 6, respectively. Credit: Hope Mars Mission
These are three images of atomic oxygen radiation at a wavelength of 103.4 nanometers from the planet Mars, obtained using an ultraviolet spectrometer. The auroras of Mars have never been captured in this way in the past. It is specified that the orbital images were taken on April 22, 23, and May 6, respectively. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission

And now, after a long time, the leadership of the mission announced the first scientific results of the mission, which allowed the UAE to join the club of space powers that launch interplanetary vehicles. Scientists have shown photographs of auroras on the planet, taken in the ultraviolet range.

Auroras filmed on Mars are of the same nature as auroras on Earth. When streams of protons and electrons from the Sun reach our planet, its magnetic field deflects particles, forcing them to bend around the Earth. When particles collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, they cause auroras, usually seen in the northern or southern polar latitudes.

Artist's impression of the auroras on Mars. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission
Artist’s impression of the auroras on Mars. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission

The same phenomenon is observed on Mars. However, due to the weakness of the planet’s magnetic field, it is observed not only in polar but also in temperate and equatorial latitudes.

Some areas on the planet’s surface, frozen several billion years ago, retained residual magnetism. If the earth’s magnetic field looks like a large magnet, then on Mars it looks like if you take a bag of magnets and scatter them on the surface of the planet. And they all look in different directions and have different strengths.”

These magnetic field bunches act like lenses and attract charged particles, which cause a glow to collide with the atmosphere. Other orbital probes have previously also recorded auroras on Mars, but the Arab vehicle, having a high orbit, was able to photograph the entire night region of Mars for the first time.

Photographing atmospheric auroras is not the mission’s main focus. The main purpose of the $200 million spacecraft is to study the Martian climate and weather. Scientists will try to find an answer to the main question – why did the planet almost lost its entire atmosphere.

Globally, with this project, the country’s authorities want to attract young people to high-tech production and thereby reduce the country’s dependence on hydrocarbon exports.

Artist's impression of the auroras as seen from the surface of Mars. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission
Artist’s impression of the auroras as seen from the surface of Mars. Credit: Emirates Mars Mission

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Sources:

Bartels, M. (2021, July 1). UAE’s Hope Mars orbiter spots elusive aurora on Red Planet. Space.com.
Castelvecchi, D. (2021, July 1). Mars’s glowing auroras snapped by Hope spacecraft. Nature News.
Chang, K. (2021, June 30). Mars Has Auroras and a U.A.E. Spacecraft Captured New Pictures of Them. The New York Times.
Crane, L. (2021, June 30). Best ever views of Mars’s weird auroras taken by UAE’s Hope orbiter. New Scientist.
Nagraj, A. (2021, July 1). UAE’s Hope probe sends first global images of Mars’ discrete aurora. Gulf Business.

Written by Vladislav Tchakarov

Hello, my name is Vladislav and I am glad to have you here on Curiosmos. My experience as a freelance writer began in 2018 but I have been part of the Curiosmos family since mid-2020. As a history student, I have a strong passion for history and science, and the opportunity to research and write in this field on a daily basis is a dream come true.

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