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Spectacular green glow seen on Mars: scientists explain how it is possible

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
The green glow on Mars is not the same as the northern lights on Earth. Source: ESA/Cameron Pickett/collage by OBOZ.UA

Future astronauts who will explore Mars will see a green glow in the atmosphere of the red planet. It is caused by oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere.

This is stated in a study by scientists published in the journal Nature Astronomy. The authors of the new work are planetary scientist Jean-Claude Gerard from the University of Liège and his colleagues.

Recently, the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has noticed that the atmosphere around the south pole of Mars is glowing green. This unusual phenomenon was recorded during the long polar night.

As it turned out, the green glow was due to the recombination of oxygen atoms high above the Martian surface. During this process, they released energy.

This Martian night glow is also called the aurora. It is a bit like the northern lights that occur on Earth, but it is a completely different phenomenon.

Northern lights on our planet, and on other worlds, are caused by charged particles of the solar wind interacting with the magnetic field. During this interaction, the force lines of the Earth's magnetic field can direct these charged particles into the upper atmosphere. There they begin to interact with the gas. As a result, a bright light show appears in the night sky. It is usually observed in the far northern or southern regions of the planet, but such phenomena are also possible in Ukraine.

The color of the glow depends on which gas the charged particles of the solar wind interact with. Oxygen gives off green and red light, while nitrogen gives off blue and purple light.

Mars also has its own northern lights. Scientists believe that it exists on every planet in the universe that has a magnetic field and an atmosphere.

But the northern lights are not the only light spectacle that can be observed on Mars. The aurora is caused by a completely different process, but it also has a connection to the Sun and oxygen.

According to Inverse, in the summer half of Mars, sunlight energizes carbon dioxide molecules high in the atmosphere. This extra energy causes the carbon and oxygen atoms to break apart, leaving free pieces of carbon and oxygen floating high above the surface.

Eventually, strong winds carry these free atoms to the winter side of the planet, where they settle down and form chemical bonds again. In this process, single oxygen atoms combine into O2 molecules and release energy in the form of green light.

According to researchers, this glow can be bright enough for future astronauts on Mars to see it on clear nights.

There are also such glows on Earth, but they are not bright enough to be seen from the planet's surface. However, astronauts on the International Space Station are quite capable of seeing this beauty.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that a unique blue sunset was photographed on Mars.

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