Mysterious green night glow over Mars spotted for the first time – and it could help future space explorers navigate
IMAGINE your first night on Mars and seeing what should be a pitch-black sky awash with green.
It sounds straight out of a science fiction novel, but it’s not.
While it’s distinctively known as the Red Planet, scientists have discovered that the sky glows green at night.
It’s no Martian mystery, either.
According to experts at the European Space Agency (ESA) and the University of Liège, the nightglow appears as a result of a chemical reaction in the atmosphere.
It means future Mars explorers may be able to use the glow to see and navigate the Red Planet’s poles at night.
“When future astronauts explore Mars’s polar regions, they will see a green glow lighting up the night sky,” the ESA wrote.
“For the first time, a visible nightglow has been detected in the martian atmosphere by ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) mission.”
The glow is similar to the Aurora Borealis on Earth – albeit a lot less dazzling – and was first spotted by the ESA’s Mars Express Mission in 2003.
“These observations are unexpected and interesting for future trips to the Red Planet,” said Jean-Claude Gérard, planetary scientist at the University of Liège and lead author of the new study published in Nature Astronomy.
In 2020, NASA’s ‘MAVEN’ orbiter pictured signs of the eerie phenomenon in Mars’ upper atmosphere.
At the time, scientists didn’t think it would be visible to humans.
But recent findings suggest otherwise.
“Under clear skies, the glow could be bright enough for humans to see by and for rovers to navigate in the dark nights,” added Gérard.
“Nightglow is also observed on Earth.
“On Mars it was something expected, yet never observed in visible light until now.
“These observations are unexpected and interesting for future trips to the Red Planet.”
Nightglow is a relatively common phenomenon in the atmospheres of the Solar System.
While fairly common on Earth, Venus and Jupiter have their own infrared and ultraviolet lights that appear at night.
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