Mars has its own version of the northern lights
NASA

Mars has its own version of the northern lights

Earth has the aurora borealis and aurora australis: nighttime light shows triggered when Earth’s magnetic field funnels electrons and protons from the sun to polar regions, where they excite atmospheric gas molecules and cause them to fluoresce. On Mars, you might call it the aurora universalis. That’s because Mars, lacking an inherent magnetic field, does not channel the sun’s energetic particles to its poles. Scientists using the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft today report evidence for an aurora that instead may occur across the entire nighttime face of the planet (artist’s illustration, above). The MAVEN spacecraft, which began orbiting Mars in 2014 to shed light on how the Red Planet’s atmosphere became so thin, is responsible for findings published today in three other papers. One explains how solar storms erode the planet’s atmosphere; another analyzes interplanetary dust detected at exceptionally high altitudes; and a third details the mixing of atmospheric molecules during one of MAVEN’s dives into the Mars thermosphere and ionosphere.