Nation & World

Solar storm hits Mars, causing massive global aurora, NASA says

An undated composite photo of the Mars rover Curiosity, taken by the rover, on the planet Mars. Curiosity observed record levels of radiation after a solar event Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a bright global aurora on the Red Planet.
An undated composite photo of the Mars rover Curiosity, taken by the rover, on the planet Mars. Curiosity observed record levels of radiation after a solar event Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a bright global aurora on the Red Planet. NASA via The New York Times

A strong solar blast hit Mars earlier this month, leading to a global aurora on Mars that was 25 times brighter than any that had been previously recorded, NASA reported this week.

The solar event started Sept. 11 and led to a spike in radiation levels on the Mars surface, more than double the highest reading that the Curiosity rover has sensed since landing on the Red Planet in 2012, according to Friday’s news release by NASA.

NASA also observed the solar blast through its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission. The MAVEN orbiter has studied Mars’ atmosphere since 2014.

The event, which lasted two days, had an impact on Earth as well, but to a much smaller extent.

So what does it matter to us Earthlings? Well, close study of Martian weather – including solar weather – is critical before we can start sending humans there, Newsweek reported Saturday.

“To protect our astronauts on Mars in the future, we need to continue to provide this type of space weather monitoring there,” Radiation Assessment Detector Principal Investigator Don Hassler said in the news release. An event like this would require humans to take shelter, he said.

Many believe humans on Mars is decades away from being a reality, but it has been a big talking point for SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who earlier this week at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia unveiled plans to use a new rocket and a new spaceship to send us there, The New York Times reported.

Musk’s ambitious plan would see cargo missions to Mars by 2022 and manned missions by 2024.

  Comments