Bizarre ‘sinuous discrete aurora’ detected in Mars atmosphere

On clear Martian nights, long, snake-like ribbons of light may streak through the sky for thousands of miles. It’s a pretty sight, according to new observations from the United Arab Emirates Mars Mission (EMM) — and it represents a strange new type of aurora never seen before on any planet.

Auroras — also known on Earth as the southern or northern lights — occur when charged particles from solar wind collide with molecules in a planet’s atmosphere. Several different types of auroras have been detected on Mars, including planet-wide “diffuse auroras,” which glow faintly through the entire Martian sky during intense solar storms, as well as patchy “discrete auroras,” which only glow above certain spots of Martian crust thought to contain magnetized minerals, according to EMM.

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