NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft which was assigned the task of observing the surrounding atmosphere of the planet Mars came back with surprising results. It discovered that there were pulses of light observed during the entire night. These optical pulses were definitely not visible through a normal human eye.
Hence, special ultraviolet technology was used in order to prove the existence of these pulsating lights. Another fact that came to the picture was that the ultra-fast event of pulsating of the lights was merely seen only three times a night. Moreover, it was specifically seen only during the season of spring or even autumn for that matter. So, only those months which fall under these seasons were suitable for seeing these lights. NASA put forward a theory in order to explain how these optical events occur.
According to them, the ultraviolet light occurs only when the vertical winds in the atmosphere carry the gases down towards the regions with higher density. This leads to chemical reactions which in turn creates Nitric Oxide and the ultraviolet glow as well. Zac Millby from the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), Boulder, Colorado gave his views about the same mainly highlighting upon the distance of the ultraviolet glow and the comparison of the pulsating lights on the planet Mars as to the northern lights seen at the planet Earth.
As per him, 70 kilometers which are approximately 40 miles and the brightest spot observed about a thousand kilometers altitude which is approximately 600 miles and it can be said to be as bright as Aurora. Howsoever, with the composition of the atmosphere on Mars, the light is not clear at visible wavelengths but these streaks of light will become a cornerstone for future scientists on the planet of Mars.
A snippet of the electrons adding magic and leading to pulsating lights on Mars
How is the process like?
The process starts when the ultraviolet lights which come from the sun, break the carbon dioxide molecule and dinitrogen molecule into carbon, oxygen, nitrogen atoms. Later, due to atmospheric circulations, the atoms are brought to the night side. After that, it is seen that the air in the atmosphere descends which leads to the atoms of Nitrogen and Oxygen coming together to form Nitric Oxide. This molecule is responsible for ultraviolet photons as we call it the pulsating of light.
However, there were certain facts that revealed that these bright patches will increase during the night time which in turn will drift across the sky at around 300 kilometers per hour (approximately 180 miles per hour). Another data revealed that the middle atmosphere at Mars is not only influenced by solar heating at the top portion but also from the active volcano mountains at the bottom portion. The optical pulsating lights are a result of this middle atmosphere. We are thrilled to know all about Mars. Are you?