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Mars observations. The Red Planet in shades of green and purple

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NASA presented photos of Mars taken by the MAVEN probe. In these unique paintings, the Red Planet is kept in shades of green and purple. This is the effect of observing a celestial body in the ultraviolet – thanks to this data, researchers can monitor the processes taking place in its atmosphere.

Mars is commonly known as the “Red Planet” – its surface has a slightly muted, reddish color, which is given to it by rocks rich in iron compounds. The distinctive color is visible in most images of Mars, but not all. In 2022 and 2023, the MAVEN probe captured a completely different face of our cosmic neighbor.

Pink fog, brown clouds

The images were made in the ultraviolet – the probe’s measuring instrument registers wavelengths from 110 to 340 nanometers, beyond the visible spectrum. To make them visible to the human eye, individual wavelengths are translated into colors so as to preserve the meaning of the data and facilitate their analysis.

The first image was taken in July 2022 during the southern hemisphere summer. In the lower part is the plain crater Argyre Planitia filled with a pale pink haze. At the top we can see the canyons of Valles Marineris, over which there are clouds, shown here in shades of light brown. The white spot is the ice cap at the south pole of Mars, shrinking in the summer.

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Mars in the lens of the MAVEN probe – southern hemisphereNASA/LASP/CU Boulder

The second image shows the northern hemisphere of Mars and was taken in January 2023 when Mars was far from the sun. The white patches are clouds caused by the rapid changes of the seasons. The canyons of Valles Marineris can be seen in the lower left corner, and next to them – a lot of craters. The ozone, which appears purple in this view, accumulated over the pole during the cool polar nights. In the spring it is destroyed by chemical reactions with water vapour.

Mars in the lens of the MAVEN probe – northern hemisphereNASA/LASP/CU Boulder

MAVEN was launched in November 2013 and entered Mars orbit in September 2014. The goal of the mission is to study the planet’s atmosphere, ionosphere and interaction with the Sun in order to study the process of loss of the Martian atmosphere. By viewing the planet in ultraviolet light, scientists can see what is happening in its atmosphere and learn more about its history.


Main photo source: NASA/LASP/CU Boulder

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