An illustration of  the green glow in Martian atmosphere | Image courtesy : ESA

In the Earth's atmosphere, Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis are common phenomenons in north and south pole respectively. The high altitude atmospheric electron particles react with cosmic radiation and solar storms, and creates a glowing green hue in the atmosphere.

Similar type of green glow has been spotted in the atmosphere of the 'Red  Planet', for the first time in a planet beyond the Earth. European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter traced such an emerald glow. It has been predicted for almost 40 years that  this emission might exist on Mars.

Jean-Claude Gérard from The Université de Liège, Belgium, said in a recently concluded study,
The emission has been predicted to exist at Mars for around forty years– and, thanks to TGO, we have found it.


When and how does the atmosphere light up?

The Martian atmosphere glows both in the day and night. But there is a slight imparity of the mechanism for that  two times. During the daytime, the glow directly emerges when the atmospheric atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen or some other specific gaseous elements react with solar radiation right away. But at night, when the sunlight is not present, night glow arises due to the recombination of the broken-apart gaseous molecules. But scientists have found that the glow mainly produced when carbon dioxide broke up into carbon monoxide and oxygen (CO₂→CO, O).

How is the glow spotted?

Scientists have used a 'special observation mode' of Trace Gas Orbiter, called 'NOMAD' or Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery, and 'UVIS' or Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer. They used these methods to probe deep into the Martian atmosphere between late April and early December of 2019, and finally succeeded to get the trace of oxygen emission at an altitude of nearly 80 kilometres from the Martian surface.

Ann Carine Vandaele from the Institut Royal d' Aéronomie Spatiale de Belgique, one of the co-authors of the study, as well as principal investigator of the NOMAD, wrote in the paper,
The emission was strongest at an altitude of around eighty kilometres and varied depending on the changing distance between the Mars and the Sun.
A Comparison between model and ESA's ExoMars
Trace Gas Orbiter observation of oxygen
emission in Mars atmosphere
| Image courtesy : ESA

However, though scientists spotted the glow in both visible and ultraviolet wavelengths, the interesting thing is that the visible wavelength of the emission is 16.5 times more intense than that of the UV wavelength.

This exploration on Mars might match with previously developed models, but notwithstanding, the visible wavelength of this glowing phenomenon for the case of the Earth found much weaker.

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