On September 11, 2017, a strong coronal mass ejection from our sun hit Mars, dazzling NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft’s sensors.
This Mars aurora was 25x brighter than any seen before and double surface radiation levels!
These images show the sudden appearance of a bright aurora on Mars during a solar storm in September 2017. The purple-white color scheme shows the intensity of UV light seen on Mars’ night side before (left) and during (right) the event. A simulated image of Mars for the same time and orientation has been added, with the dayside crescent visible on the right. The auroral emission appears brightest at the edges of the planet where the line of sight passes along the length of the glowing atmosphere layer. The data are from observations by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument (IUVS) on NASA’s MAVEN orbiter. Note that, unlike auroras on Earth, the Martian aurora is not concentrated at the planet’s polar regions. This is because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth’s to concentrate the aurora near the poles. Image credit: NASA / University of Colorado.
“When a solar storm hits the Martian atmosphere, it can trigger auroras that light up the whole planet in UV light. The recent one lit up Mars like a light bulb,” said Dr. Sonal Jain, a member of MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument team and a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.
“An aurora on Mars can envelope the entire planet because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth’s to concentrate the aurora near polar regions.”
“The energetic particles from the Sun also can be absorbed by the upper atmosphere, increasing its temperature and causing it to swell up.”
The strange thing about this large-scale event isn’t its size but rather the timing. You see, our sun’s activities follow an 11-year cycle with a peak in the middle, yet this massive solar storm occurred during a usually calm time. So this begs the question of what caused such unusual behavior.
All wise ancient civilizations of our great ancestors acknowledged and studied carefully, with surprising accuracy, the celestial phenomena in our skies as well as the influence these gigantic heavenly bodies have upon our earthly bodies and behavior.
Nowadays many people hardly look up, let alone within themselves. So remember to hit the pause button to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of busy daily life to reflect upon the direction you’re heading in life or, at least, enjoy the beautiful light show above.