Technology Why green with the Red planet and why scientists...

Why green with the Red planet and why scientists are excited

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ESA

Image caption

Daytime atmospheric luminescence of Mars for a long time remained elusive

Astronomers have discovered an unusual green glow in the atmosphere of Mars, and the day, not night. What caused it?

The earth is a Blue planet and Mars is Red, we are so accustomed to this stereotype that is not even thinking about the nature of this phenomenon. Well, in fact, it’s not difficult: the Earth’s surface is mostly covered with oceans, they are from above, from space, look blue, and the photos from the ISS seen, and astronauts tell blue bead. Well, with Mars clear red soil. So? Not really.

Earth and night, when the oceans do not reflect anything and should be black, the blue light glows. If we ignore the light pollution as a result of human activities, reflected light sued and the moon, and also diffused sunlight, remains the so-called heaven, or atmospheric glow. It produces different ranges of atmospheric molecules that are in constant motion and involved in the processes, both chemical and physical.

This glow reminiscent of the Aurora, or Northern lights, but it is noticeably weaker, and the mechanism of its occurrence is different.

Aurora is a diffuse phenomenon caused by the flow of the solar wind, whose charged particles ionize atmospheric atoms and cause flashes of light in the sky.

And the glow of the sky is caused by the interaction of sunlight with the atmosphere and is of two types – night and day. Night happens when atoms are destroyed by day under the influence of solar radiation, re-connected, releasing the excess energy in the form of photons. Such luminescence is characteristic not only for Earth but also for Venus and Mars – he’s repeatedly said.

The copyright holder of the illustration
NASA

Image caption

At a certain angle with the orbit of the Earth also you can see a green night a heavenly glow

What is unusual in the glow of Mars?

This time, however, in the atmosphere of Mars astronomers have discovered a fluorescent glow – a phenomenon whose existence had been predicted in 1979, but see it could not. And now, after decades of waiting, scientists were rewarded with a magical green glow caused by the interaction of sunlight with oxygen in the upper atmosphere of Mars.

“One of the brightest illuminations of the Earth caused by the night glow of the sky, more specifically, oxygen atoms that emit light in a specific wave range that has never been observed around other planets,” explains astronomer Jean-Claude Gerard, head of the new research, published in the edition Nature Astronomy.

“The presence of such radiation on Mars was predicted about 40 years ago, and now, thanks to the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter [орбитальному научному комплексу “ЭкзоМарс Трейс Гас Орбитер”]we finally found it” – said the astronomer.

According to scientists, the strong green fluorescence in the visible to the human eye, and ultraviolet light was observed at an altitude of about 80 km and varied in intensity depending on the distance between Mars and the Sun.

When the experts decided to model the process that produces this glow, they realized that it strongly resembles the heavenly glow of the Earth. When solar radiation penetrates the Martian atmosphere, it decomposes carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. It is the oxygen atoms and give the green otenok.

It turned out another interesting detail: the glow in the visible to the human eye range was 16.5 times more intense glow in the ultraviolet.

“The results of the monitoring of the Martian atmosphere are consistent with the previous theoretical calculations, but not the actual illumination that we see in the Earth’s atmosphere where visible light is much weaker. This means that we still have much to learn about the behavior of oxygen atoms, as it is very important for the understanding of atomic and quantum physics,” underlines Gerard.

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