Persistent Dust Cloud and December 2014 Aurora On Mars Still Mysteries

— “What's especially surprising about the aurora we saw is how deep
in the atmosphere it occurs — much deeper than at Earth or elsewhere on Mars. The electrons producing it must be really energetic.”

- Arnaud Stiepen, IUVS Team at LASP, Univ. of Colorado

— “No known process on Mars can explain the appearance of dust
in the observed locations” from normally expected sources.

- NASA and University of Colorado LASP

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft using its  UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) to observe the December 2014 "Christmas Lights Aurora" on the red planet. The aurora is similar to Earth's Northern Lights, agitated by especially energetic  solar particles. Image credit: LASP, University of Colorado, Boulder.
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft using its UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) to observe the December 2014 "Christmas Lights Aurora" on the red planet. The aurora is similar to Earth's Northern Lights, agitated by especially energetic solar particles. Image credit: LASP, University of Colorado, Boulder.

March 18, 2015 Boulder, Colorado - Today, NASA reported about its efforts to understand “two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.” No known process on Mars can explain the appearance of dust in the observed locations from normally expected sources. Further concerning the mysterious aurora, MAVEN detected “a huge surge in energetic electrons at the onset of the aurora” that must be solar particles suddenly increasing, but why?

Both mysteries were detected by NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, MAVEN, spacecraft that has been orbiting the red planet since September 22, 2014.

 

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