Another Similarity: Aurorae on Mars and Earth

An illustration shows what a Martian aurora might look like. Photo by NASA/JPL (via ScienceDaily)

Through the recent evidence from an international team of researchers it seems that Mars’ upper atmosphere may mimic Earth’s atmosphere more closely than initially thought. Through numerical simulation and experimentation, Paneterrella, researchers were able simulate an aurora on Mars. The experiments showed that the primary color in a Mars aurora is deep blue, with hints of green and red, since its’ upper atmosphere is mostly made up of carbon dioxide. In comparison, Earth’s polar aurorae are prominently green and red, since our atmosphere is oxygen rich. Additionally, our planet also features purple and blue, which is the result of nitrogen.

The Planeterrella these scientists utilized to mimic a Mars aurora is a polar light simulation device that traps an electromagnetically charged array of gases in a vacuum in order to replicate the combination of a planet’s upper atmosphere and magnetic field. An electrical discharge sparks the aurora in the laboratory, just as a burst of solar particles might instigate an actual one in the atmosphere, thus causing the simulated Mars atmosphere to glow blue.

a planeterrella Photo credit: Pascal Conche via http://planeterrella.osug.fr/
A planeterrella Photo credit: Pascal Conche via http://planeterrella.osug.fr/

In a press release the international team of researchers mentioned the following,

“The present study shows that, on Mars, aurorae also occur in the visible range. Aurorae occur when electrically charged particles of solar origin are driven down along the local magnetic field lines, where they enter the planetary atmosphere and excite its atoms and molecules.”

Additionally, this recent study also shows that on Mars, aurorae occur in the visible range. The aurorae of Mars occurs — much like that of Earth’s — when the electrically charged particles from the sun are driven down along the local magnetic field lines, in which they enter the planetary atmosphere and excite its atoms and molecules, thus becoming visible to the naked eye.

The group published there work, which was conducted in France, but also featured the efforts of NASA researchers and Finnish scientists at Aalto University, in the Journal Planetary and Space Science on May 26, 2015.

BH Recommended Resources:

La Palneterrella

Planeterrella Video Gallery