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LOOK: NASA Orbiter MAVEN Captures Ultraviolet 'Nightglow' View of Mars

Oct 19, 2016 04:49 AM EDT
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Mars usually exhibits its red glow thus the name the "red planet" but an image taken by MAVEN showed a different Mars using the spacecraft's infrared camera capturing the planet's ultraviolet glow.

The image also captured the interesting activities going on within the thin Martian atmosphere, about 100 times thinner compared to that of the Earth. MAVEN spacecraft took an astounding image of Mars that showed interesting activities that cannot be observed using normal types of cameras and telescopes.

Evident in the image are water ice clouds over the massive volcanoes on the Martian surface located in the Tharsis region. "Maven obtained hundreds of such images in recent months, giving some of the best high-resolution ultraviolet coverage of Mars ever obtained," Nick Schneider of theUniversity of Colorado, said in a statement.

MAVEN used its Imaging UltraViolet Spectograph (IUVS) to take infrared images of the red planet. The formerly invisible movements in the Martian atmosphere were dramatically revealed in the image taken by the spacecraft.

The image took the ultraviolet "nightglow" of Mars. Usually, the public can only see the nightglow of the Earth taken from the International Space Station (ISS). But this time, a Martian nightglow was captured. This phenomenon happens when nitrogen atoms and oxygen merge and collide that produces nitric oxide. During the day, the ultraviolet light from the Sun also affects the chemistry ionizing the nitric oxide. As this travels around the surface of the planet and its atmosphere, it causes the unusually stunning ultraviolet glow of Mars.

"The planet will glow as a result of this chemical reaction," Nick Schneider, from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, said in a statement.

Scientists say that this reaction and the interaction of materials are common in many planets and it can help experts understand the movements, activities, and transport of these ingredients and how high altitudes affect the circulation of the said components.

 From the image taken by MAVEN, it showed that there are obvious irregularities in terms of Martian high-altitude winds. Based on the observation of scientists analyzing the images, the circulation pattern and irregularities that were discovered by looking at the image will help scientists understand the Martian atmosphere's behavior.

The findings obtained from MAVEN's images were presented to the American Astronomical Society Division for the Planetary Sciences in California, according to a report.


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