Mars in the ultraviolet: new shades of our planetary nearest neighbor

Mars, red and dusty, has always been of interest to scientists and space enthusiasts. However, new images from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) probe allow us to see the planet in a completely different light – ultraviolet. These new photos show us just how variable the atmospheric processes on Mars can be.

MAVEN has a special instrument that allows us to observe ultraviolet radiation. In this wavelength range we can see various gases and interactions occurring in the atmosphere of Mars. Using this instrument, strange auroras were detected dancing in ultraviolet light high above the planet. An invisible glow that occurs in the atmosphere at night, called the night glow, has also been detected. This glow comes from atoms recombining after they have been separated by sunlight.

NASA recently published new images of Mars in the ultraviolet. The three wavelengths of ultraviolet light are represented by red, green and blue. Atmospheric haze and clouds are colored white or blue, and the surface may appear brown or green. Ozone in the Martian atmosphere appears purple.

Two images were taken six months apart and show seasonal changes in Mars’ atmosphere. The first image, taken in July 2022, shows the planet’s southern hemisphere in summer. This photo shows that the atmosphere appears fairly clear, with clouds filling the canyons of the Mariner Valleys. The southern polar ice cap, visible in the photo, is at its lowest level in summer. Water vapor can be found at very high altitudes due to summer heat and dust storms.

The second image was taken in January 2023, six months after the first photo. This photo shows that seasonal changes have produced many white clouds around the northern hemisphere of Mars. Ozone accumulation, which has turned a purple hue, has also become noticeable. Ozone accumulates in the atmosphere during cold winter nights and dissipates in the spring due to its interaction with water vapor.

MAVEN was launched in September 2014 and was originally scheduled to last only 2 years. However, the probe is still in Martian orbit and its mission has been extended indefinitely. During its stay in Mars orbit, MAVEN has made significant progress and continues to operate in excellent condition.

Ultraviolet images of Mars provide us with new information about the processes taking place in this planet’s atmosphere. These photos help us better understand Mars and its atmosphere, and expand our knowledge of other planets in the solar system.

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