NASA’s latest Mars mission made its first observations of the upper atmosphere of the Mars just hours after entering orbit around the Red Planet.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, or MAVEN, captured these false-color images of Mars in three ultraviolet wavelengths using its Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument eight hours after orbital insertion. MAVEN will use observations like these to better understand the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere and the rate of escape of gases.
Hydrogen, shown in blue, can be seen extending high above the Martian surface, while oxygen, shown in green, is seen staying much closer to the surface, the result of being heavier than hydrogen. Red shows ultraviolet light reflected off the surface of Mars. The fourth image is a composite of these ultraviolet views.
The gases highlighted in these images are the result of the breakdown of carbon dioxide and water in the atmosphere of Mars. MAVEN’s mission aims to understand what happened to Mars’ atmosphere and the water that was once present at its surface.