NASA MAVEN Spacecraft mysterious dust clouds and Aurora on Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN), an NASA spacecraft employed for orbiting Mars has recently made a surprising revelation. It has discovered to unnatural phenomena in the planet’s atmosphere.

The first one among them is a dust cloud at orbital altitudes. Scientists are calling the cloud mysterious as its source is still unknown. The cloud is located in the area between 93 miles and 190 miles from the surface of Mars.

According to NASA, the cloud has existed in that zone at least since September 2014 i.e. since the time MAVEN has entered the orbit of Mars. However, this span of six months is not enough for scientists to conclude whether the feature is permanent or it’s just a temporary phenomenon.


Here it must be mentioned that the cloud has been detected just by one instrument called Langmuluir Probe and Waves; MAVEN carries this instrument for examining the properties of Mars’ ionosphere.

The other event that left NASA surprised is more visually interesting but is not as mysterious as the dust cloud. It’s a glowing ultraviolet aurora. This Aurora lit up the northern hemisphere of the red planet around last year’s Christmas Day. Thus, many have started to refer to it as the “Christmas lights”.

The photograph of the aurora was captured by Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph, an imaging instrument MAVEN carries. The formation of Mars’ Aurora is significantly similar to that of Earth’s aurora. It contains charged particles like electrons and protons that enter the atmosphere and causes ionization; this in turn lights up the planet’s atmosphere.

Scientists had previously deduced that the charged particles in Earth’s aurora originate from the solar wind; due to this reason, auroras mostly take place during solar maximum. So, it can be said that Mars’ Aurora also has its origin in the sun.

The magnetosphere or the magnetic field surrounding the Earth ensures that life on Earth is not affected by solar activities. However, the Magnetosphere of Mars has been destroyed billions of years back. As a result, its auroras can appear a lot deeper into the atmosphere.