Nasa’s detected an unexpected solar storm which hit Mars last month. It was observed by Nasa’s Mars-related programmes. Sun is approaching a phenomenon called the solar minimum. This phenomenon happens every 11 years or so. At this time Sun goes through a low-intensity solar radiation period. Near the solar minimum period, Solar blast stays at relatively low intensity. Therefore the huge solar storm came as a surprise for the scientist community.
What Is A Solar Flare?
Flares occur when sped up charged particles, mainly electrons, interact with the plasma medium. Scientific research suggests that the phenomenon of magnetic reconnection leads to this copious acceleration of charged particles. This is a very common phenomenon and because of Earths atmosphere, we stay safe from those high energy radiations.
Effects On Mars
Though things are pretty different on Mars. Mars has a very light atmosphere thousand times less than Earths atmosphere. As a result of the light atmosphere, the solar radiation directly hits Mars. The recent Solar wind was so strong that it was also observed from Earth. Though we were not in the path of the solar wind. During the impact, it sparked an Aurora 25 times brighter than usual. Which would have possibly been the most spectacular view from Mars.
The effects were observed by Nasa’s Maven mission.
Sonal Jain is a member of MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument team. She 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,”
RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute’s Boulder, Colorado described why this type of detections is important for future Mars missions. He said, “If you were outdoors on a Mars walk and learned that an event like this was imminent, you would definitely want to take shelter, just as you would if you were on a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. To protect our astronauts on Mars in the future, we need to continue to provide this type of space weather monitoring there.”
Also published on Medium.