In pics: NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft reveals stunning views of Mars


NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) explorer has shared new views of Mars in two ultraviolet images taken at different points while orbiting around the Sun. The US space agency says that the images will help scientists gain insight into the Martian atmosphere and view surface features in remarkable ways by viewing the planet in ultraviolet wavelengths.

As revealed by NASA, MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument obtained these global views of Mars in 2022 and 2023 when the planet was near opposite ends of its elliptical orbit.

The IUVS instrument measures wavelengths between 110 and 340 nanometers, outside the visible spectrum. To make these wavelengths visible to the human eye and easier to interpret, the images are rendered with the varying brightness levels of three ultraviolet wavelength ranges represented as red, green, and blue.

The first image was taken in July 2022 during the southern hemisphere’s summer season, which occurs when Mars passes close to the Sun. The summer season is caused by the tilt of the planet’s rotational axis, similar to seasons on Earth.

Image Credits: NASA/LASP/CU Boulder

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Image Credits: NASA/LASP/CU Boulder

In the image, Argyre Basin, one of Mars’ deepest craters can be seen at bottom left filled with atmospheric haze (depicted here as pale pink). While the deep canyons of Valles Marineris appear at top left filled with clouds (colored tan in this image).

The southern polar ice cap is also visible at bottom in white.

The second image is of Mars’ northern hemisphere. It was taken in January 2023 after Mars had passed the farthest point in its orbit from the Sun. In the image, one can see an abundance of white clouds due to the rapidly changing seasons in the north polar region.

Image Credits: NASA/LASP/CU Boulder

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Image Credits: NASA/LASP/CU Boulder

The deep canyons of Valles Marineris can be seen in tan at lower left, along with many craters. Ozone, which appears magenta in this UV view, has built up during the northern winter’s chilly polar nights. It is then destroyed in northern spring by chemical reactions with water vapor, which is restricted to low altitudes of the atmosphere at this time of year.

For those unaware, MAVEN spacecraft was launched in November 2013 and entered Mars’ orbit in September 2014. The mission’s goal is to explore the planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the Sun and solar wind to explore the loss of the Martian atmosphere to space. The MAVEN team is preparing to celebrate the spacecraft’s 10th year at Mars in September 2024.


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Updated: 25 Jun 2023, 11:26 AM IST


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