European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has observed a green glow around the red planet. The green glow cannot exist around a planet without an atmosphere and this is a shocking discovery ever since scientists have set out to find traces of ancient life on Mars.
Solar winds that originate from the sun consist of charged particles. When these charged particles encounter nitrogen and oxygen particles, they form the green glow. A similar phenomenon is observed on Earth as well in the shape of the Northern Lights. The green glow present around our planet, however, cannot be observed from Earth itself and can only be seen from the International Space Station.
This new discovery is detailed in a recently published study in the journal Nature Astronomy.
The orbiter was made to orbit the planet at certain altitudes, and it was observed that the maximum glow could be seen when it was 80 km from the surface of the Red Planet.
Scientists have come up with a theory that carbon dioxide emissions were present on the planet. This carbon dioxide then disintegrated into carbon monoxide and oxygen. When these molecules came in contact with the solar winds from the space, they formed the green glow.
However, scientists believe that there is still a lot to learn about how oxygen atoms behave when they encounter the solar winds. These recent observations made with the help of NOMAD present on the orbiter, have put forward a new set of mysteries that will keep the scientists busy for a quite a while.
The study, “Detection of green line emission in the dayside atmosphere of Mars from NOMAD-TGO observations”, was authored by J.-C. Gérard, S. Aoki, Y. Willame, L. Gkouvelis, C. Depiesse, I. R. Thomas, B. Ristic, A. C. Vandaele, F. Daerden, B. Hubert, J. Mason, M. R. Patel, J.-J. López-Moreno, G. Bellucci, M. A. López-Valverde, and B. Beeckman