NASA’s MAVEN mission has returned images showing the ultraviolet glow from the Martian atmosphere, revealing dynamic, previously invisible behaviour.
NASA’s MAVEN mission has returned images showing the ultraviolet glow from the Martian atmosphere in unprecedented detail, revealing dynamic, previously invisible behaviour. They include the first images of “nightglow” that can be used to show how winds circulate at high altitudes, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nightglow is a common planetary phenomenon in which the sky faintly glows even in the complete absence of external light. Scientists predicted nitric oxide (NO) nightglow at Mars, and prior missions detected its presence, but MAVEN has returned the first images of this phenomenon in the Martian atmosphere, the statement added.
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NASA’S MAVEN Spacecraft Celebrates One Mars Year of Science MAVEN's Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph obtained this image of Mars on July 13, 2016, when the planet appeared nearly full when viewed from the highest altitudes in the MAVEN orbit. The ultraviolet colors of the planet have been rendered in false color, to show what we would see with ultraviolet-sensitive eyes. The ultraviolet (UV) view gives several new perspectives on Mars. Valles Marineris, a two-thousand-mile canyon system, appears prominently across the middle of the image as a blue gash. The deep canyon appears blue due to the scattering of ultraviolet light by the atmosphere, so strong that we cannot make out the bottom of the canyon. The greenish cast of the planet as a whole is a combination of the reflection of the surface plus the atmospheric scattering. The three tall Tharsis volcanoes appear near the left edge, dotted by white clouds forming as the winds flow over them. Bright white polar caps appear at both poles, typical for this season, in which there is a transition from southern-hemisphere winter to summer. The magenta-colored region visible at the south pole shows where ozone is absorbing ultraviolet light — the same property of ozone that protects life on Earth from harmful UV radiation. While ozone tends to be destroyed by chemical processes in the winter on Earth, different atmospheric chemistry at Mars caused it to build up in the winter there. A hint of ozone is also visible near the north pole; more will accumulate there as winter is coming. IUVS obtains images of Mars every orbit when the sunlit portion of the planet is visible from high altitude. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Colorado/LASP #nasagoddard #mars
Additionally, dayside ultraviolet imagery from the spacecraft shows how ozone amounts change over the seasons and how afternoon clouds form over giant Martian volcanoes.
“MAVEN obtained hundreds of such images in recent months, giving some of the best high-resolution ultraviolet coverage of Mars ever obtained,” said Nick Schneider of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
The images were taken by the Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on MAVEN.
Schneider will present these results on October 19 at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences meeting in Pasadena, California, which is being held jointly with the European Planetary Science Congress.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission was launched in November 2013 to explore the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind.
Online Source: The Indian Express.