US space agency NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft, which is exploring Mars, has spotted two very strange phenomena in the Martian atmosphere.
The two unusual phenomena include: a mysterious dust cloud and a bright ultraviolet aurora.
Cloud of Dust
The NASA spacecraft has detected the cloud of dust at orbital altitudes lying in the zone that is located between 150 kilometres (93 miles) and 300 kilometres (190 miles) from the Martian surface. The dust cloud has baffled scientists as they are clueless about from where it came and how it got there.
According to the scientists, the dust cloud has been present at the Martian surface for approximately the same time duration as long as MAVEN has existed in orbit around the Red Planet since September 2014.
Scientists say as it has been just six months of MAVEN orbiting Mars, it can’t be determined whether the dust cloud is a permanent feature or only a temporary event.
The thin cloud dust was detected by a MAVEN’s instrument called the Langmuir Probe and Waves instrument, which analyses the properties of Mars’ ionosphere.
Laila Andersson, of the Laboratory for Atmospherics and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, said, “If the dust originates from the atmosphere, this suggests we are missing some fundamental process in the Martian atmosphere.”
The glowing ultraviolet aurora lit up the northern hemisphere of Mars for five days just ahead of Christmas in 2014. Hence, the phenomenon has been nicknamed as “Christmas lights”.
The incredible aurora was imaged by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph of MAVEN.
Alike Earth’s aurora, Mars’ was created by the charged particles like electrons and protons entering the atmosphere from above and causing ionisation, making the atmosphere glow.