Physicists led by the University of Iowa have learned how a type of aurora on Mars is formed. They have studied discrete aurora which is a light-in-the-sky display. It occurs mostly during the night in the red planet’s southern hemisphere. Scientists have only known about discrete aurora on Mars but it also occurs on Earth.
Scientists do not know how they form. That’s because Mars does not have a global Magnetic field like Earth. Magnetic fieldis a main trigger for aurora and it is also called the northern and southern lights on our planet.
Physicists report that discrete aurora on Mars is governed by the interaction between the solar wind, the constant jet of charged particles from the sun and magnetic fields generated by the crust at southern latitudes on Mars. It’s the nature of this localized interaction between the solar wind and the crustal magnetic fields that lead to discrete aurora.
The findings come from more than 200 observations of discrete aurora on Mars. The observations were done by the NASA-led Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft. The Solar Wind Ion Analyzer is also one of the instruments used to make the observations. It was led by Jasper Halekas who associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a co-author on the study.
The study named “Discrete Aurora at Mars: Dependence on Upstream Solar Wind Conditions” was published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.