Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid shares new image of Mars taken by Hope Probe

UAE spacecraft provides insights into Red Planet's turbulent atmosphere

A picture taken by the Hope probe for the spring season in the northern part of Mars. Photo: Dubai Media Office
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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, has shared a new picture of Mars taken by the Hope Probe.

He said on Saturday that data Hope had gleaned showed larger-than-expected amounts of oxygen on the Red Planet.

The UAE has also begun sharing the data it obtained with scientific centres around the world.

The image was of the northern parts of Mars.

Hope’s mission is to study the upper and lower atmosphere of the planet. The Emirates Mars Mission team will reveal more findings in the coming weeks.

The orbiter has also sent back thousands of images that help the scientific community understand more about the Martian surface.

The Data includes a breakthrough finding that there is more oxygen in the Martian atmosphere than expected.

The image shared on Saturday shows the spring season in the northern part of the planet, with the Tharsis Montes region that hosts three large shield volcanoes clearly visible on the left.

After entering orbit on February 9, the probe started capturing scientific data on the levels of gases present in the planet’s upper atmosphere. The gases include hydrogen, oxygen and carbon monoxide.

The first set of data has been published online and is available for free download.

The latest findings show atomic oxygen and carbon monoxide are more abundant in the atmosphere than had been thought.

The data shows dramatic variations in the concentrations of both gases.

“These observations contain features that were completely unexpected and we believe will have far-reaching consequences for our existing models of the Martian atmosphere and our understanding of its behaviour,” said Hessa Al Matroushi, the lead scientist at the Emirates Mars Mission.

“We simply hadn’t anticipated structures of this magnitude and complexity.”

Existing data had shown that the planet’s atmosphere was extremely thin and was being stripped away, with oxygen and hydrogen escaping and making it impossible for life to exist.

Research collected by the Emirates Mars Mission will help to build a stronger model of the atmosphere of Mars and its interaction with solar radiation.

It may also help scientists to understand why and how Mars, which may have once supported ancient life, continues to lose its atmosphere.

The new observations also suggest unusual levels of atmospheric turbulence because of the high density of atomic oxygen.

“It was so unexpected that we initially thought the structures might be artefacts in the image, caused by contaminating light from longer wavelengths that the instrument is designed to reject,” said Justin Deighan, the deputy science lead of the mission.

“We had expected to observe a relatively uniform emission from oxygen at 130.4 nanometres across the planet and yet here we are, faced with unpredicted variations of 50 per cent or more in the brightness.

“The science team is currently refining their models to come up with a robust interpretation of these findings. It’s very exciting to be challenged this way. This is exactly the type of science the mission was designed to pursue.”

The data will help scientists to understand why and how Mars, which may have once supported ancient life, lost most of its atmosphere.

Three instruments on the spacecraft have made the collection of scientific data possible.

The ultraviolet spectrometer has been measuring particles that have been escaping from the planet, while the infrared spectrometer has been building images at different infrared wavelengths.

Hundreds of high-resolution images of the planet have been taken by the exploration imager, using specific filters to help scientists learn about things such as ice in the atmosphere, small water ice particles, ozone and dust storms.

Scientists with the Emirates Mars Mission team will share details on the latest findings during the International Astronautical Congress, taking place in Dubai from October 25 to October 29.

The UAE became the first Arab country to send a probe to Mars when Hope started orbiting the planet in February.

The mission is part of the UAE's ambitious and expanding space programme which this week announced its intention to visit Venus and explore seven asteroids in the Asteroid Belt.

Updated: October 10, 2021, 4:55 AM