Planets and Moons  ID: 12986

Mars Proton Aurora

On Earth, the northern and southern lights occur when the solar wind (electrically charged particles from the Sun) follow our planet's geomagnetic field lines to the poles and collide with the upper atmosphere. Mars lacks a global magnetic field, so instead the solar wind piles up in front of Mars in a bow shock, which blocks charged particles from reaching the bulk of the atmosphere. However, in a process first observed by the MAVEN mission, some solar wind protons can slip past the bow shock by first bonding with electrons from the Mars upper atmosphere to form hydrogen atoms. Because these hydrogen atoms are electrically neutral, they can pass through the bow shock and go on to create an ultraviolet proton aurora on the dayside of Mars.

Learn more about MAVEN's observation of a proton aurora at Mars.


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Nick Schneider (LASP): Lead Scientist
Bruce Jakosky (LASP): Scientist
Dan Gallagher (USRA): Illustrator
Anil Rao (Metropolitan State University of Denver): Animator
William Steigerwald (NASA/GSFC): Science Writer
Aaron E. Lepsch (ADNET): Technical Support
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NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

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MAVEN: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN

This item is part of this series:

SVS >> Mars
SVS >> Solar Wind
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Sun-earth Interactions >> Ionosphere/Magnetosphere Particles >> Proton Flux
SVS >> Space Weather
SVS >> Solar Storm
SVS >> Solar System >> Planets >> Mars >> Atmosphere
NASA Science >> Planets and Moons
SVS >> Mars Atmosphere
SVS >> Aurora

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version