Weird green glow spotted around Mars’ atmosphere

A strange green glow has been observed above Mars (ESA)

The Red Planet is glowing green.

Or rather, oxygen atoms in the planet’s atmosphere are emitting a particular wavelength of light that appears green when looked at with specialist equipment.

Although scientists have seen this green glow around Earth in the past, this is the first time it’s been observed on another planet.

It was spotted by the European Space Agency’s Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) which is currently orbiting the planet.

‘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,’ explained Jean-Claude Gérard, of the Université de Liège in Belgium.

‘However, this emission has been predicted to exist at Mars for around 40 years — and, thanks to TGO, we’ve found it,’ Gérard said.

Airglow occurs in Earth’s atmospheres as sunlight interacts with atoms and molecules within the atmosphere (ESA)

This etherial night glow may draw comparisons with the aurora borealis here on Earth but in fact, they’re two different things. The northern lights are caused by charged particles from the sun smashing into molecules high up in our atmosphere. Meanwhile, night glow is the interactions of sunlight with atoms in the air creating a continuous light.

It’s difficult to spot unless you can get the right angle – which is why the best images of the Earth’s night glow have come from astronauts aboard the ISS.

Oxygen emission detected in dayside limb spectra from the UVIS channel of the NOMAD instrument on ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (ESA)

‘This is the first time this important emission has ever been observed around another planet beyond Earth, and marks the first scientific publication based on observations from the UVIS channel of the NOMAD instrument on the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter,’ said Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s TGO Project Scientist.

‘It demonstrates the remarkably high sensitivity and optical quality of the NOMAD instrument. This is especially true given that this study explored the dayside of Mars, which is much brighter than the nightside, thus making it even more difficult to spot this faint emission.’

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