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MAVEN detects unusual aurora, dust cloud
Posted: Sat, Mar 21, 2015, 10:39 AM ET (1439 GMT)
MAVEN spacecraft illustration (NASA) NASA's MAVEN Mars orbiter has detected an dust cloud in the planet's upper atmosphere as well as an unusual aurora, scientists reported this week. In presentations at the Lunar and Planetary Sciences Conference in Houston, scientists said MAVEN detected a dust cloud at altitudes of 150 to 300 kilometers above the Martian surface, far higher than previously detected. The clouds could consist of dust carried up from the surface, or drifting down from Mars's two moons, but scientists said there is no good process to explain either possibility. Scientists also said they detected aurorae in the planet's northern hemisphere; aurorae had been detected at Mars before, but not at those latitudes or that deep into the planet's atmosphere. The findings are some of the first science results from MAVEN, which arrived at Mars six month ago.
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