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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

Aurora on Mars

Image Credit: David Brain & Jasper Halekas/SSL
Mars is just getting weirder. Mars Global Surveyor has detected hundreds of aurora on Mars. True, you can only see them in the ultraviolet, so you won't see the gorgeous colours you see on Earth, making a trek to Mars for the aurora enthusiast a bit of a waste. But the fact that they can be detected at all is amazing. On Earth aurora occur where magnetic fields funnel high speed Solar wind particles into the upper atmosphere. Mars has virtually no global magnetic field, but it does have some magnetic filed associated with patches of crust in the Martian Southern Hemisphere, where the aurora are seen. How Mars's weak magnetic field can cause funneling of charged particles is not clear.

Hat tip to MLR.

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