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This May 12, 2016 image provided by NASA shows the planet Mars. On Sunday, May 22, 2016, the sun and Mars will be on exact opposite sides of Earth. (NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team - STScI/AURA, J. Bell - ASU, M. Wolff - Space Science Institute via AP)

NASA just unveiled the first images that show Mars glowing


NASA revealed more out-of-this-world images of Mars Monday. 

The Maven spacecraft, which is orbiting the Red Planet, took images that "show the ultraviolet glow from the Martian atmosphere in unprecedented detail, revealing a dynamic, previously invisible behavior," according to NASA. 

The images of "nightglow" can be used to show how winds circulate at high altitudes. 

Researchers had predicted that "nightglow" would exist on Mars, but these images are the first time it's been documented.

"Mars' nightside atmosphere emits light in the ultraviolet due to chemical reactions that start on Mars' dayside," NASA explained in a statement. 

Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks down molecules of carbon dioxide and nitrogen and the winds spread them across Mars. 

During the night, the winds bring the atoms down to lower altitudes where nitrogen and oxygen atoms collide and form nitrogen oxide molecules. 

Maven obtained hundreds of such images in recent months, giving some of the best high-resolution ultraviolet coverage of Mars ever obtained.
Nick Schneider, University of Colorado Boulder

Daytime ultraviolet images from the spacecraft show how ozone amounts change over the seasons and how afternoon clouds form over Martian volcanoes.

The spacecraft captured images of the clouds forming over the volcanoes on July 9 and 10. 

Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation

NASA noted that the clouds formed the same way clouds form about mountains on Earth.

"Mars' tallest volcano, Olympus Mons, appears as a prominent dark region near the top of the images, with a small white cloud at the summit that grows during the day," NASA said in a statement. "Olympus Mons appears dark because the volcano rises up above much of the hazy atmosphere which makes the rest of the planet appear lighter."

The Maven spacecraft launched in 2013 and arrived at Mars in 2014. 

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