A satellite has captured a green light on the atmosphere of our neighbouring planet Mars. This is the first time such a glow has been identified beyond our planet.
The glow forms after oxygen atoms react with sunlight.
The Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), which is a joined European and Russian initiative placed at Mars, detected the glow recently. The findings have been released in a paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Dr Manish Patel from the UK's Open University is the co-principal investigator on Nomad's ultraviolet and visible spectrometer. He said the findings were encouraging to say the least.
“It's a nice result,” said Patel and added, “You'd never plan a mission to go look for this kind of thing. Today, we have to be very clear about the science we're going to do before we get to Mars. But having got there, we thought, 'well, let's have a look'. And it worked”.
A similar kind of green-coloured glow can be seen on the earth’s atmosphere when polar auroras form. The light occurs when the charged particles running away from the sun strike with the atoms present in our atmosphere. Aurorae on Mars occur very differently from here due to its nonexistent magnetic field. These have been also identified on the Red Planet before.
The recent light has been observed at different but particular altitudes – 80 and 120 km above the surface. According to Dr Patel, scientists will be now able to understand the varying thickness of the atmosphere on Mars with the help of these lights.
“By looking at the altitudes of where this emission is, you can actually tell the thickness of the atmosphere and how it's varying,” he added.