Martian Night Sky Pulses In Ultraviolet Light

Screengrab / NASA Video / YouTube


Areas of the Martian night sky pulse in ultraviolet light, showing circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere.

Images from NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, using the Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph, show that vast regions of the Martian night sky pulse in ultraviolet light.

  • The results from the images are used to illuminate complex circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere. 
  • Pulsations are caused by downwards winds which enact chemical creations to give off a glow.
  • Months of data were averaged to identify the pattern, revealing the occurrence of exactly three pulses each night.
  • The data showed waves and spirals over the winter poles, and the nightglow is brightest over the winter polar regions. 
  • The brightenings occur after Martian sunsets during fall and winter, and fad by midnight.
  • Air currents in the middle of Mars’ atmosphere carry gases between the lowest and highest layers; brightenings occur where vertical winds bring fases to regions with higher density, speeding up chemical reactions.
  • The pulsations reveal the significance of planet-encircling waves in the Martian atmosphere, which are influenced by the daily pattern of solar heating and Mars’ topography.
  • The circulation patterns transport atmospheric gases from the surface to the edge of space, relating to discoveries in atmosphere loss and climate change.

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