MAVEN mission data provide insights, provoke questions about Red Planet
Univ. of Colorado
Martian auroras! Mystery dust clouds! Just a few months into its mission, NASA’s newest Mars orbiter is finding an assortment of oddities in the Martian atmosphere, researchers report March 18 at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodlands, Texas.
Shortly after arriving at Mars in September, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, discovered a wispy layer of dust suspended several hundred kilometers above the Martian surface. And then for five days in December, the spacecraft detected an ultraviolet glow blanketing the northern half of the Red Planet. The light show, similar to the northern lights on Earth, coincided with a fierce solar storm, when the sun flooded the solar system with charged particles.
“Nobody expected to see auroras in the