Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has congratulated the scientists

Emirates' Hope probe discovers new aurora on Mars

PHOTO/MBRSC-AFP - Hope Al-Amal Probe Technical Control Panel

The new aurora discovered on Mars, which has already been christened by the scientists in charge of the mission as "mysterious and sinuous aurora", is a worm-shaped dawn that crosses the middle of the fourth planet of the solar system. The United Arab Emirates-owned Hope spacecraft has been tasked with capturing these dancing lights circling Mars. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE's prime minister and vice-president, has congratulated the scientists and says the new discovery is "unprecedented potential for the scientific community", as reported by The National News.


These rare lights surrounding the Red Planet have been captured by Hope, the UAE's proprietary ultraviolet spectrometer instrument, and will now help scientists understand the relationship between Mars' magnetic fields, atmosphere and solar radiation. On Earth there is only one type of aurora, known as the aurora borealis, but on the Red Planet there are up to three different types of aurorae: protonated, diffuse and discrete. These variations are due to the lack of global magnetic fields and localised crustal magnetic fields in the southern hemisphere. To date, only proton auroras have been captured in detail, but the Hope probe traces a unique elliptical orbit around the planet, so it has a better chance of also obtaining sharp images of the auroras that occur on the night side of Mars. "We have completely wasted ten years of studying the auroras on Mars with ten minutes of observations," said Justin Deighan, deputy science leader of the Emirates Mars Mission. He added: "These exciting observations go beyond the original scientific goals of the Emirates Mars Mission". 

With this discovery, the UAE further establishes itself as a leading country in science and space, and underlines the Arab presence in space: the Emirati country is already exploring new avenues of research towards Venus. In early January this year, Mohammed bin Rashid confirmed that Dubai is planning a new space mission that aims to explore the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and if possible land on one of them, in addition to a flyby of Venus to conduct a surface exploration of the planet. Although the project will be carried out in 2028, Dubai has already taken the first steps in the plan, which consists of travelling 3.6 billion kilometres past seven asteroids and landing the spacecraft on one of them. This mission would involve an even greater journey than the one made by the Hope probe in February 2021 to enter the orbit of Mars.

What causes the Martian auroras?

Auroras occur in the irregular magnetic fields surrounding the crust of Mars, which contains large deposits of minerals stored in its exterior. In this context, auroras are generated when energetic electrons collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, causing ionisation, separation of the molecules and emission of photons. However, these conditions do not necessarily mean that auroras are visible. The lights are only visible during a solar storm, because that is when the particles interact with higher levels of energy. "The implications for our understanding of the atmospheric and magnetospheric science of Mars are tremendous and provide new support for the theory that solar storms are not necessary to drive the aurora on Mars," say the scientists behind the discovery.