A Strange New Mars Aurora Stretches Across Half The Planet’s Sky

When the Sun becomes very active and produces more significant flares, the whole Solar System gets bathed in light and plasma. This creates the popular auroras on the skies of Earth and on other planets. Recently, this effect manifested on Mars but in a manner that has not been seen by scientists before. These recent auroras were exceptionally long and thin and stretched for thousands of kilometers – halfway across the planet.

Artistic representation of auroras viewed from Mars' surface.
A Strange New Mars Aurora Stretches Across Half The Planet’s Sky

Mars Exhibits a Diverse Range of Auroras, But None Were This Long

Auroras on Earth take place when charged particles from solar flares get funneled to the poles by their magnetic field. There, they excite the gasses in the atmosphere and release light when returning to their ground state. Records of these auroras date back 3,000 years ago. As magnificent as those may be, Jupiter’s auroras dwarf them as the gas giant is much bigger and way more massive. When it comes to Mars, though, auroras were not expected at all because the red planet has no planetary magnetic field and almost no atmosphere. So, the discovery of auroras was a surprise, and the fact they come in many forms was stranger still. Now, the Emirates Mars Mission has revealed even more types of Martian auroras, including one that stretched across half the planet’s surface.

The Emirates Mars Mission Was Focused On Auroras Since 2021

Actual pictures of auroras on Mars as viewed from space by the EMM's Hope probe.
A Strange New Mars Aurora Stretches Across Half The Planet’s Sky

According to Dr. Hessa Al Matroushi from the Emirates Mars Mission, when the team first imaged discrete aurora on Mars just after the Hope probe arrived there in 2021, the team knew what potential they had unveiled and focused on making observations that were never before possible on a planetary scale. Martian aurora observations soon revealed widespread events across the planet, and while most were very faint, some were highly localized and rather bright. The brighter auroras are believed to be the product of solar wind interactions with fields that owe their existence to the presence of magnetized mineral deposits.

It is also notable that NASA’s MAVEN probe discovered Martian proton auroras that were formed due to positively charged particles capturing electrons and thus creating hydrogen. Now, the Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope probe has found impressive long curving streaks of energized electrons that produce glowing light in the Martian sky and stretch so far that at one end, they are in the planet’s dayside and at the other – into its nightside.