The Hope Probe explores a new type of intermittent proton aurora on Mars

The Hope Probe explores a new type of intermittent proton aurora on Mars


The Emirates Mars Exploration Project, “Probe of Hope”, the first space mission to explore planets led by an Arab country, announced the recording of observations, the first of its kind, about a new type of proton auroras around Mars.

Intermittent proton auroras that occur in changing locations may provide new understanding about unexpected changes in the behavior of the Martian atmosphere.

The Hope Probe team collaborated with NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) project to study and characterize the observations.

Studying the world’s unprecedented images of the intermittent protein auroras with the MAVEN probe’s observations of Mars plasma at the same time opens new avenues for understanding the mysterious causes of the Martian aurora.

Hessa Al Matrooshi, scientific team leader for the Emirates Mars Exploration Project, said: “The discovery of the intermittent proton auroras enriches the probe’s record of unique achievements, and also raises questions about our current hypotheses about how protons auroras formed on the bright side of the planet.”

She added that the Hope probe has so far revealed many unexpected phenomena that enhance our understanding of the dynamics of Mars’ atmosphere and magnetism, and these new scientific observations, in addition to the data of the MAVEN probe, enhance the course of scientific research in this field.

The new type of intermittent proton auroras is formed as a result of the interaction of the solar wind directly with the upper atmosphere of the bright side of Mars, which slows its speed and emits ultraviolet radiation.

The proton auroras were detected through snapshots of the luminous disk of Mars through the ultraviolet spectrometer, which monitors the upper atmosphere and the outer atmosphere of Mars to detect any changes in the composition of the atmosphere and the leakage of gases into space.

The aurora appears as luminous areas scattered across the bright side of the planet with two wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation associated with the hydrogen atom; Lehmann beta 102.6 nm and Lehmann alpha 121.6 nm.

Under normal conditions, the bright side appears uniform at these two wavelengths, as hydrogen atoms contribute to the planet’s brightness due to the scattering of sunlight.

Auroras occur when small areas of the planet become brighter at these wavelengths, indicating that energy is concentrated in specific regions of the atmosphere.

“Previous studies of proton auroras by NASA’s MAVEN probe have shown similar light emissions at these wavelengths,” said Mike Chaven, a member of the scientific team of the Emirates Mars Mission and lead contributor to a new research study on proton auroras. Captured using the ultraviolet spectrometer of the Emirates Mars Exploration Project, it is the first scientific observations in the world to monitor the spatial changes of the proton aurorae on Mars, thanks to which we were able to clearly monitor the structure of the protein aurorae irregularly clearly for the first time and we realize that these wavelengths are emitted only by the hydrogen atom, This confirms to us that the formation of the aurora requires the presence of highly active hydrogen atoms.

He added: Due to the size scales of the solar wind and the hydrogen atmosphere extending in Mars, the natural mechanisms of proton aurora formation appear to be limited to the formation of the aurora phenomenon that we monitor today through the ultraviolet spectrometer. This confirms that the plasma layer around Mars is subject to severe disturbances.

He pointed out that thanks to the images and measurements of the MAVEN probe of this layer in conjunction with the aurora, we can confidently confirm that the solar wind directly affected the upper atmosphere wherever the aurora phenomenon was present. Therefore, this phenomenon represents a map of where large amounts of solar wind reach Mars.

He continued: We do not know what the future holds for us in terms of discoveries, but I am optimistic, as the Hope probe still provides results that exceed our expectations about the scientific discoveries that we aspire to reach.

The data-sharing agreement between the Hope probe and the MAVEN probe made it possible to study the new images of the Hope probe based on observations of the planet’s plasma by the MAVEN probe, which has been studying the ionized layer and magnetosphere of Mars since 2014.

MAVEN carries a full suite of plasma monitors, including a magnetometer and two electrostatic ion analyzers, which are used to measure Martian plasma and magnetic fields in conjunction with the Hope probe’s detection of intermittent proton auroras.

“Measurements of the Martian atmosphere in many ways help reveal the interaction of the atmosphere with sunlight in real time, and simultaneous observations play an important role in exploring the physical relationships behind atmospheric dynamics and evolution,” said Shannon Curry, MAVEN principal investigator.

“The MAVEN data is important to a comprehensive understanding of these new images, so the two missions collaborate to expand the horizons of their current knowledge about Mars and planetary interactions with the solar wind.”

The MAVEN probe was the first to discover the proton auroras on Mars, followed by similar observations by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express probe, but most of these previous images show consistent auroras on the bright side of the planet. In contrast, the Hope probe images clearly show the aurora structure.

Scientists from both teams currently believe that the intermittent proton auroras occur only as a result of disturbances in the plasma surrounding Mars.

Conducting intermittent proton aurorae observations by the Hope probe and measuring plasma conditions by the MAVEN probe at the same time provides a unique opportunity to study rare phenomena that occur when the interaction between Mars and the solar wind is greatly disrupted.

The Hope probe has monitored the phenomenon of intermittent auroras, which has manifested itself in different shapes and sizes, many times since the launch of its mission. .

Plasma disturbance on Mars is caused by many factors, but changing the shape of the aurora may reveal different conditions for the plasma.

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