Mars is a very dry, dusty and windy place, and is known as the Red Planet because of its copper-colored overall appearance. According to a recent paper published in Nature Astronomy, Mars is once again turning green, not because it suddenly grows a lush plant life, but because the planet’s thin atmosphere glows green.
Photo courtesy of ESA
On Earth, we often see some very spectacular light shows (such as the Antarctic light, the Northern Lights), a phenomenon that is well known and often studied by scientists. The green, blue, and other colors in these skies are caused by the guidance of the planet’s magnetic field.
Mars doesn’t have as strong a magnetic field as Earth, but it has oxygen in its atmosphere. These oxygen atoms are recharged in sunlight, and then, when they are released, they glow with a faint green glow.
Dr. Manish Patel, co-author of the study, said in a statement.
By looking at the height of this discharge, you can actually determine the thickness of the atmosphere and how it changes. So if you keep looking at this phenomenon, you can see a change in the height of the atmosphere, for example, when it heats up during a sandstorm, it changes. That’s a problem we face when we try to land on Mars, because we can never be sure how thick the atmosphere will be when we cross the atmosphere to the surface.