Mars is being watched by NASA during the solar storm


Mars scientists have been anticipating epic solar storms ever since the Sun entered a period of peak activity earlier this year called solar maximum.
The flare sent out X-rays and gamma rays toward the Red Planet, while a subsequent coronal mass ejection launched charged particles.
Moving at the speed of light, the X-rays and gamma rays from the flare arrived first, while the charged particles trailed slightly behind, reaching Mars in just tens of minutes.
Similarly, the star camera NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter uses for orientation was inundated with energy from solar particles, momentarily going out.
Even with the brief lapse in its star camera, the orbiter collected vital data on X-rays, gamma rays, and charged particles using its High-Energy Neutron Detector.
Auroras Over Mars High above Curiosity, NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiter captured another effect of the recent solar activity: glowing auroras over the planet.
Scientists can use that instrument’s data to rebuild a timeline of each minute as the solar particles screamed past, meticulously teasing apart how the event evolved.
For more about these missions, visit: News Media Contacts Andrew Good Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. 818-393-2433 Karen Fox / Charles Blue NASA Headquarters, Washington 202-358-1600 / 202-802-5345 / 2024-080


Not only did a recent extreme storm produce auroras, but it also revealed more information about the radiation levels that future astronauts may experience on the Red Planet.

Ever since the Sun entered solar maximum, a period of maximum activity earlier this year, Mars scientists have been bracing for massive solar storms. Researchers have had firsthand observation of several solar flares and coronal mass ejections that have reached Mars over the past month; in certain cases, these events have even resulted in Martian auroras, thanks to NASA’s Mars rovers and orbiters.

An unparalleled chance to investigate how these occurrences transpire in deep space and the potential radiation exposure levels for the first astronauts on Mars has been provided by this scientific gold rush.

The most significant event happened on May 20 and was later determined to be a solar flare of class X12, the strongest of several types, based on information from the Solar Orbiter spacecraft, a joint mission of NASA and the European Space Agency. In addition to launching charged particles into space, the flare released X-rays and gamma rays toward the Red Planet. The charged particles arrived at Mars in tens of minutes, slightly behind the X-rays and gamma rays from the flare, which arrived first and traveled at the speed of light.

The Moon to Mars Space Weather Analysis Office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, monitored the developing space weather closely and noted any potential incoming charged particles after the coronal mass ejection.

The radiation dose that astronauts would have received at that time if they had been standing next to NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover would have been 8,100 micrograys, or 30 chest X-rays. The radiation surge was the largest recorded by Curiosity’s Radiation Assessment Detector, orRAD, since the rover’s landing 12 years prior, despite not being fatal.

Scientists will be able to better prepare for potential radiation exposure levels astronauts may experience on the Martian surface thanks to the data provided by RAD.

An astronaut would receive extra protection from cliffsides or lava tubes in the event of such an occurrence. Don Hassler of the Solar System Science and Exploration Division of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, who is the principal investigator of RAD, stated that the dose rate would be much higher in deep space or on Mars.”. “I wouldn’t be shocked if this Sun-active area keeps erupting, which would mean more solar storms on Earth and Mars in the upcoming weeks. “.

Black-and-white pictures captured by Curiosity’s navigation cameras during the May 20 event displayed “snow” – charged particles striking the cameras and creating white streaks and specks. This was due to the storm’s intense surface impact.

The star camera that NASA used to guide the Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2001 experienced a brief power outage due to solar particle bombardment. Odyssey can also find its way around on its own, and it found the camera in about an hour. (In spite of the brief malfunction of its star camera, the orbiter’s High-Energy Neutron Detector enabled it to gather crucial information on charged particles, gamma rays, and X-rays.

This wasn’t Odyssey’s first encounter with a solar flare; in 2003, the radiation detector intended to detect such events was damaged by solar particles from a solar flare that was eventually determined to be an X45.

Aurorae above Mars.

Another result of the recent solar activity was seen high above Curiosity by NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) orbiter, which photographed bright auroras over the planet. These auroras don’t occur the same way as those that are seen on Earth.

Strong magnetic fields protect our planet from charged particles, limiting aurora activity to areas close to the poles. The recent auroras that have been observed as far south as Alabama are caused by solar maximum. Mars is vulnerable to the onslaught of energetic particles because it once lost its natural magnetic field. The entire planet is covered in auroras when charged particles enter the Martian atmosphere.

The Sun emits a variety of energetic particles during solar events. Measuring them with RAD requires only the most energetic to reach the surface. MAVEN’s Solar Energetic Particle instrument detects slightly less energetic particles, which are responsible for auroras.

The data from that instrument will allow scientists to painstakingly piece together how the event unfolded, reconstructing a timeline of each minute as the solar particles screamed by.

According to Christina Lee, the MAVEN Space Weather Lead at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, “this was the largest solar energetic particle event that MAVEN has ever seen.”. We have been witnessing waves upon waves of particles striking Mars due to a number of solar events in the last few weeks. “.

New Spacecraft headed for Mars.

Future planetary missions to the Red Planet will benefit from the data that NASA’s spacecraft are sending back. The agency’s other heliophysics missions, such as Voyager, Parker Solar Probe, and the upcoming ESCAPADE (Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers) mission, are gaining a lot of data from it.

With a launch window of late 2024, ESCAPADE’s two tiny satellites will circle Mars and monitor space weather from a distinct dual viewpoint that goes beyond what MAVEN can currently observe on its own.

More About the Missions.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is overseen by Caltech, and it built Curiosity. On behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, JPL is in charge of the project.

The principal investigator of MAVEN is located at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). Additionally, LASP is in charge of overseeing communications and public outreach initiatives as well as science operations. MAVEN is operated by NASA, which has its headquarters at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The spacecraft was constructed by Lockheed Martin Space, which also oversees mission operations. Support for the Deep Space Network and navigation are provided by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. The MAVEN team is getting ready to celebrate September 2024, the spacecraft’s tenth year on Mars.

Go to to learn more about these missions.

Visit for more information.

News Media Contact Details.

Good Andrew.

Air Force Research Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

(818) 393-2433.

Andrew. C. email:

Charles Blue / Karen Fox.

NASA Headquarters, Washington DC.

202-802-5345 / 202-358-1600.

Kent. Charles: c . fox@nasa . gov. e.


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