UAE's Hope probe sends first global images of Mars' discrete aurora
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UAE’s Hope probe sends first global images of Mars’ discrete aurora

UAE’s Hope probe sends first global images of Mars’ discrete aurora

The Hope probe – which entered Mars orbit in February – is following its planned 20,000 – 43,000 km elliptical science orbit

The UAE’s Hope probe has captured the first ‘global images’ of Mars’ discrete aurora, the Emirates Mars Mission revealed on Wednesday.

The images have “revolutionary implications for our understanding of the interactions between solar radiation, Mars’ magnetic fields and the planetary atmosphere”, a statement said.

“These unique global snapshots of the discrete aurora of Mars are the first time such detailed and clear observations have been made globally, as well as across previously unobservable wavelengths,” said Emirates Mars Mission Science lead, Hessa Al Matroushi.

“The implications for our understanding of Mars’ atmospheric and magnetospheric science are tremendous and provide new support to the theory that solar storms are not necessary to drive Mars’ aurora.”

Taking to Twitter, the UAE’s Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum shared images captured by the probe.

The images, taken by the Hope Probe’s EMUS (Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer) instrument, show a ghostly glow – which is known as the discrete aurora.

Its intricate patterns trace out the regions where Mars’ crustal magnetic fields act like a funnel to guide fast electrons from space down into the atmosphere, causing it to shimmer in a manner similar to Earth’s aurora, the mission explained.

The influence of localised magnetic fields is a unique feature of Mars, since, unlike Earth, it does not have a global magnetic field generated by the planet’s core.

The most sensitive ultraviolet instrument yet to orbit Mars, EMUS is able to image these dynamic auroral events globally at high resolution and across a wide range of wavelengths.

While previous studies had theorised that the discrete aurora is tied to Mars’ magnetic fields and existing observations had been consistent with that theory, prior images of this phenomenon at this quality had only been available as artist’s impressions.

“We have totally blown out 10 years of study of Mars’ auroras with 10 minutes of observations,” said EMM deputy science lead Justin Deighan.

“The data we are capturing confirms the tremendous potential we now have of exploring Mars’ aurora and the interactions between Mars’ magnetic fields, atmosphere and solar particles with a coverage and sensitivity we could only previously dream of. These exciting observations go above and beyond the original science goals of the Emirates Mars Mission.”

The Hope probe – which entered Mars orbit in February – is following its planned 20,000 – 43,000 km elliptical science orbit, with an inclination to Mars of 25 degrees.

It will complete one orbit of the planet every 55 hours and will capture a full planetary data sample every nine days in a two-year mission to map Mar’s atmospheric dynamics.

Read: UAE Hope Probe achieves historic milestone, successfully enters Mars orbit

“Mars’ aurorae are an area of intense interest to the global scientific community and their study has tremendous potential to challenge, expand and deepen our understanding of Mars’ atmosphere and its interaction with the planet and with solar energies,” said Matroushi.

“We were hopeful that EMUS could make a contribution in this area but we now know with absolute certainty that contribution is going to be ground breaking.”

The Emirates Mars Mission is the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation. Hope is a fully autonomous spacecraft, carrying three instruments to measure Mars’ atmosphere. It weighs some 1,350 kg – approximately the size of a small SUV.

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