NASA and EMM unveil 'patchy' proton aurora on Mars in recent study
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and UAE's Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) have recently released a collaborated observation report regarding the discovery of a rare phenomenon called dynamic proton aurora occurring in the upper atmosphere of Mars. As per the report, such new discoveries can certainly prove to be beneficial in order to understand the Martian atmosphere.
What is a proton aurora?
An aurora is basically a naturally occurring phenomenon which is caused when electrically charged particles from the solar wind travel down the magnetic field lines of the planet and react with gases present in the atmosphere. Auroras are not just unique to our planet, in fact, they can occur on any planet which has an atmosphere and a magnetic field.
Proton aurora (discovered by MAVEN back in 2018) is the most commonly occurring type of Martian aurora, which shares a few characteristics with the auroral events occurring on Earth. The proton auroras form when positively charged protons in the solar wind react with the hydrogen envelope of Mars and become ionized, stealing electrons from hydrogen atoms to become neutral.
This neutral charge of the particles allows them to bypass the flimsy magnetic field of the planet and rain down onto the upper atmosphere, resulting in the emission of ultraviolet light.
What do the recent discoveries prove?
As per the previous observations made by MAVEN and the European Space Agency's (ESA) express mission it was primarily concluded that the aforementioned process produces smooth and uniform emissions on the dayside of the planet. Only recently, the scientists from EMM observed that the proton aurora appeared to be highly dynamic and turbulent, almost carrying a 'patchy' nature.
After this, various measurements were taken by the means of NASA's orbiters and EMM's Hope probe in order to reconstruct the reasons behind the occurrence of dynamic proton auroras.
Based on the joint study of both the bodies it was concluded that the patchy auroras are a result of a rare chaotic interaction between Mars and the solar wind.
Reportedly, these observations will not just help in understanding Mars' atmosphere but will also help in expanding the knowledge about the planetary interactions with the solar wind.