July 20, 2024

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Mars has been cooked due to the recent solar storm

Mars has been cooked due to the recent solar storm

The sun unleashed a barrage of radiation-filled explosions in May. As it collided with Earth’s magnetic bubble, the world saw iridescent displays of the northern and southern lights. But our planet wasn’t the only planet in the solar line of fire.

A few days after the Earth’s light show, Another series of explosions I screamed at the sun. This time, on May 20, Mars was brutally attacked by a storm.

Observed from Mars, he said, “This was the most powerful solar particle event we have seen to date.” Shannon Careyprincipal investigator for NASA’s Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

When the shower arrived, it unleashed an aurora that covered Mars from pole to pole in a shimmering glow. If they were standing on the surface of Mars, “astronauts could see these aurora borealis,” Dr. Carey said. Based on scientific knowledge of atmospheric chemistry, she and other scientists say observers on Mars saw a jade-green light show, even though no color cameras on the surface captured it.

But fortunately, there were no astronauts. Mars’ thin atmosphere and absence of a global magnetic shield meant that its surface, as recorded by NASA’s Curiosity rover, was exposed to a dose of radiation. The equivalent of 30 chest x-rays – Not a lethal dose, but certainly not pleasant to the human constitution.

Although last month’s aurora was magical, it was a reminder that Mars can be a dangerous, radiation-choked place, and that future astronaut visitors should be wary of it. “These solar storms are powerful,” Dr. Carey said.

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Lava tubes — long caverns formed by volcanic activity — could provide Mars voyagers with a powerful refuge from solar storms. But with the Sun’s harmful particles reaching Mars sometimes in minutes, Earthlings have to be light on their feet.

In other words, if you’re a Martian astronaut, “you’d better stay up to date on space weather forecasts,” he says. James O’Donoghuea planetary astronomer at the University of Reading in England.

When the massive eruption erupted on May 20, it was immediately clear that it was massive. A powerful solar flare reached Mars first, bathing it in X-rays and gamma rays. Hot in its wake was a powerful coronal mass ejection — a shot of charged particles from the Sun. “They seemed pretty fast to me,” he said. Matthew Owensa space physicist at the University of Reading.

When particles from a solar shower reach humanity’s home, they get caught in the Earth’s magnetic field and move toward the north and south magnetic poles. There, they bounce off various gas molecules in the atmosphere, temporarily activating them and unleashing a myriad of visible colors.

Mars lost its magnetic field eons ago when its iron-rich interior stopped waving, so solar bombardment was not intercepted in May. “There is nothing preventing these particles from reaching directly into the atmosphere,” he said. Nick Schneiderthe lead scientist working on the ultraviolet spectrometer imaging on MAVEN at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

After suffering a global strike, the aurora borealis burned across the entire planet. The MAVEN probe documented a A thunderous ultraviolet glowWhile a light green color could be seen on the surface when it was emitted from the atmosphere Disordered oxygen atoms.

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Some robotic Martians encountered the unpleasant effects of the storm. The charged particles hit Curiosity’s navigation cameras and the star-tracking cameras of the Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellites, showering them all with static electricity like “snow.”

Solar storms can also degrade a spacecraft’s solar panels. The May storm was no exception. “Everyone’s solar panels were damaged,” Dr. Carey said. She added that a single solar storm like the May 20 storm “causes the same amount of degradation as we would normally see over the course of a year.”

None of the spacecraft was seriously damaged, and the scientific data recorded by these spacecraft was warmly received. But these orbiters may not always emerge unscathed from the sun’s wrath. “The science team is thrilled every time we see these events,” Dr. Carey said. “Starship operations team, less so.”