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  • Writer's pictureayush devak

Emirates 'Science Lead' calls ISRO an 'important voice among world’s younger space nations'

Emirates Mars Mission "Science Lead" Hessa Al Matroushi has called ISRO an "important voice among the world’s younger space nations".

The Emirates Mars Mission was launched by United Arab Emirates Space Agency in 2020 for the exploration of the red planet.

The UAE space agency was created in 2014, while ISRO was established over 50 years ago in August of 1969.

Al Matroushi joined Emirates Mars Mission’s science team to work on the Emirates Mars Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) instrument in 2015. Her work was published in several papers, particularly in the analysis of models to simulate Mars' thermospheric oxygen emissions.

Recently, Emirates Mars Mission discovered new kind of ‘patchy’ mars proton aurora while working along with NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission.

Speaking to WION’s diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, she explained the significance of the discovery.

WION: Kindly explain the ‘Proton Aurora’ to our readers.

Hessa Al Matroushi: The new aurora that the Emirates Mars Mission has discovered has been dubbed the ‘patchy proton aurora’ and is a totally new and previously unimagined behaviour of Mars’ atmosphere. Prior missions had observed a broad dayside glow, the proton aurora, caused by hydrogen atoms in the sparse atmosphere of the planet interacting with the solar wind – the stream of high-speed particles emitted by the sun.

The Emirates Mars Mission’s Hope probe has been something of a game changer, though, both because its unique elliptical orbit gives near complete coverage of the planet every nine days. This means we can see all of the planet where before we only had ‘snapshots’ and we see it with better coverage and fidelity not only at all times of day and night but also throughout the seasons.

Because of that, when we looked at the dayside atmosphere during periods of high solar activity, we saw that the proton aurora wasn’t in fact uniform – that there was significant turbulence taking place, in which hydrogen atoms, in particular, were interacting with the solar wind in a chaotic behaviour we hadn’t seen before. There are a number of triggers for this turbulence, and that’s where observations made by NASA’s MAVEN mission came in – we were able to correlate MAVEN data with the data we were getting from EMM’s Hope probe and explore some of the likely causes for this chaotic behaviour.

WION: How significant is this discovery and your collaboration with NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission?

Hessa Al Matroushi: This is the third set of unique observations Hope has made of Mars’ aurora – we had previously made planetary scale observations of the discrete nightside aurora, which map to the planet’s unique crustal magnetosphere, as well as a mysterious and huge auroral effect called the sinuous discrete aurora, which stretches almost halfway across the planet. All of these new phenomena give us insights into the interaction between the Martian atmosphere and the solar wind, which are critical to our understanding of how Mars’ atmosphere has been lost – at one time, we believe Mars had a rich atmosphere capable of supporting life, with running water on the planet’s surface. How this transformed into today’s dead planet is one of the questions that Hope has set out to better understand.

The data from MAVEN gave us context for our observations and helped us to better understand the causational environment for the patchy proton aurora. The paper we’ve published on the new phenomenon was made possible by a data-sharing collaboration linked between the Emirates Mars Mission and MAVEN and we think it shows how collaboration between nations and missions is critical to the exploration of space.

WION: What next can we expect from the Emirates Mars Mission?

Hessa Al Matroushi: Basically, more data. We are releasing all of the data gathered by the Hope observatory every quarter and it’s freely available to any researcher, scientist or enthusiast around the world at the Emirates Mars Mission Science Data Center –

WION: Is a collaboration between the Emirates Mars Mission and India's ISRO in the pipeline?

Hessa Al Matroushi: We believe that collaboration between nations, missions, space agencies and the fast-growing private sector in space is critical for our future exploration of space. It’s one of the main reasons the UAE has launched the Abu Dhabi Space Debate, a new global forum designed to create a platform to address the critical issues that we all face moving forwards. The need for international cooperation and collaboration in the development of the space sector has never been more pressing and the Abu Dhabi Space Debate is a global platform for leaders and policymakers to review the opportunities and challenges ahead for the space sector and advance not only global dialogue and collaboration between nations but also forge concrete alliances and multilateral agreements that advance the sector as a whole. The inaugural debate is taking place in Abu Dhabi on December 5 and 6 this year and we hope it will be an opportunity to make concrete progress in advancing international cooperation, standards and policy-setting for the global space sector. Critically, we hope that ISRO, as an important voice among the world’s younger space nations, will be a major partner in that ongoing debate.


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