Mars is the place where astronomers gathered plenty of scientific insights about both the Red Planet and our Solar System. But the wonderful cosmic journey never seems to come to an end, as new discoveries keep emerging. The latest one is the faint green glow that’s due to the interaction between oxygen and sunlight from the upper atmosphere.
Scientists had been waiting to see the phenomenon for plenty of years, but only now, the Red Planet is revealing it to us.
The glow was known to exist only on Earth
A study conducted by the astronomer Jean-Claude Gérard of the Université de Liège in Belgium, confirms that the green glow we see on Earth is present on Mars as well. What’s triggering the glow is that carbon dioxide gets separated from carbon monoxide and oxygen when solar radiation hits the atmosphere of Mars. The oxygen atoms are the ones creating the green glow. The scientists involved gathered the necessary data with the help of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.
Jean-Claude Gérard declared:
One of the brightest emissions seen on Earth stems from night glow. More specifically, from oxygen atoms emitting a particular wavelength of light that has never been seen around another planet,
However, this emission has been predicted to exist at Mars for around 40 years – and, thanks to [ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter], we’ve found it.
Earth’s beautiful night glow has been captured by NASA in the image below, and there’s no difference between how the phenomenon occurs on our planet and on Mars:
The nightglow occurs when atoms break apart by radiation from the Sun during the day recombine. The excess energy gets released in the form of photons. While nightglow has previously been observed also on Venus and Mars, the phenomenon that astronomers have now observed within the Martian atmosphere is what they call ‘dayglow,’ which has a faint presence that makes it harder to detect.
The research was published in Nature Astronomy.