Science News

Solar Storm Caused Global Aurora On Mars

Photo from NASA

A strong solar storm hit Mars early in September, causing a global aurora on the Red Planet that appeared 25 times brighter than any other previous solar blasts recorded, NASA reported in a news release.

The solar event began on September 11 and led to a surge in radiation levels on the planet’s surface, over twice the highest reading that the Curiosity rover has detected since it landed on Mars in 2012, The Sacramento Bee reports.

NASA was also able to observe the solar blast through its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission. The orbiter has been studying Mars since 2014. The solar event lasted for two days, and had a smaller impact on Earth.

Elsayed Talaat, program scientist at NASA Headquarters, said, “NASA’s distributed set of science missions is in the right place to detect activity on the Sun and examine the effects of such solar events at Mars as never possible before.”

This is part of strange solar behavior that has been occurring at what should be a low point in the sun’s activity cycle. Sonal Jain of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said, “The current solar cycle has been an odd one, with less activity than usual during the peak, and now we have this large event as we’re approaching solar minimum.”

It’s important to get an accurate picture of Martian events. Radiation Assessment Detector Principal Investigator Don Hassler said,

To protect our astronauts on Mars in the future, we need to continue to provide this type of space weather monitoring there.

In case this kind of solar storm happened with humans living on the Red Planet, they would have been required to take shelter.

While many believe that sending people to Mars is no more than a pipe dream, it has been a big talking point for SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who recently unveiled plans at the International Astronautical Congress to develop a new rocket and spaceship that could send humans to the planet, The New York Times reported.

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