Most space agencies have started to focus on Mars lately, which is one of the destinations to reach when it comes to space exploration. For what it appears to be the first time, researchers were able to spot a green glow on the Red Planet, which looked similar to an aurora.
Even though auroras are known to be a phenomenon only found on Earth, such an event has never been seen in other planets‘ atmospheres. The discovery would be marked as a breakthrough as astronomers have been hoping to spot this phenomenon over Mars for 40 years.
A team led by Dr. Manish Patel from The Open University was able to detect the green glow in Mars’ atmosphere by using a NOMAD ultraviolet and visible spectrometer attached to the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Spacecraft.
The probe detected the signal of oxygen excitation with a 557.7-nanometer wavelength, a pointer of the green glow, combined with a weak ultraviolet oxygen emission at 297.2 nanometers.
Dr. Patel said: “We didn’t design the instrument to make these measurements, and it’s a fantastic example of unforeseen additional science you can get from this kind of mission. As a physicist, it is great to see UVIS resolving a long-standing debate between quantum mechanical calculations and remote observations.”
Previous to this discovery, NASA‘s Curiosity rover was able to make a breakthrough as it has identified organic compounds on the Red Planet’s terrain, which are known as thiophenes and can be found in coal, crude oil, as well as in rare white truffles. As per Professor Dirk Schulze-Makuch of Washington State University, the presence of thiophenes on Mars could point towards early alien life.
Professor Schulze-Makuch and his colleague Dr. Jacob Heinz have examined the possible reasons why thiophenes would be identifiable on the Red Planet. Based on their research, these organic compounds may have been the outcome of a biological process that occurred on the Martian soil.
Another possible reason could be an asteroid collision that happened long ago. Still, the scientists did not completely exclude chemical processes when trying to figure out why thiophenes would be found on Mars.