However, EMM’s observations were quite different – this time, proton aurora seemed dynamic and variable. The researcher’s called this “patchy proton aurora”, which forms when charged particles flow directly into the atmosphere during turbulent conditions and glow as they slow down.
It seems that the UAE’s Hope probe was quick to discover what hasn’t been seen before on Mars two years after its launch.
From solar wind to patchy aurora
“EMM’s observations suggested that the aurora was so widespread and disorganized that the plasma environment around Mars must have been truly disturbed, to the point that the solar wind was directly impacting the upper atmosphere wherever we observed auroral emission,” said Mike Chaffin, a MAVEN and EMM scientist based at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and lead author of the study. “By combining EMM auroral observations with MAVEN measurements of the auroral plasma environment, we can confirm this hypothesis and determine that what we were seeing was essentially a map of where the solar wind was raining down onto the planet.”
The newly unearthed patchy proton aurora is considered an extraordinary phenomenon. Solar wind doesn’t usually reach Mars’ upper atmosphere as it is diverted by the Red Planet’s bow shock and magnetic fields.
“The full impact of these conditions on the Martian atmosphere is unknown, but EMM and MAVEN observations will play a key role in understanding these enigmatic events,” Chaffin added.