Mars is a “winter wonderland” in this icy photo
A newly released image of Mars shows an icy scene, with ribbons of red and white dancing across an icy landscape near the planet’s south pole.
While the snowy scene can evoke the feeling of a “winter wonderland”. red planetit was actually captured by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter on May 19. This means that the icy image actually represents spring in the southern hemisphere of Mars and that the Martian ice has begun to recede.
Only six days for much of it Soil marks a new year, on December 26, the Red Planet will begin its own new year, which will last 687 Earth days. The planet has four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn, and just like on Earth, winter on the Red Planet is cold and summer is warm, although winter is much colder than ours, with temperatures on Mars drop to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 60 degrees Celsius).
The Christmas season is also special for Mars Express: Christmas Day 2022 will mark 19 years since the spacecraft arrived on Mars.
Arguably the most striking features in the recently released image are two massive impact craters lined with alternating layers of water ice and sediments called “polar stratified deposits.” These deposits can also be seen in the ridge that stretches between the two craters.
As the ice runs out, more higher elevations appear frost-free, and dark dunes poke the whole picture through surface maturation in other areas. Dune fields appear as sharp ridges parallel to the most common wind direction and aligned with the shape of the elements below.
Scientists think the dust that fills these dunes is dark because it comes from buried material volcanoes which erupted in the ancient history of Mars that was eventually exposed to strong Martian winds that easily carried it over the surface of the Red Planet.
Other dark spots in the image represent this dust and the action of jets bursting through the icy surface as underlying carbon dioxide ice is converted directly to gas, a process called sublimation. These jets cause geysers of dust to shoot into the air Mars atmospherethen settle in dark spots on the surface of the planet.
However, these are not the only elements in the image that are caused by sublimation. The Arctic is punctuated by a number of large, irregularly shaped features produced by subliming ice. These look like empty lakes carved into the surface of Mars, with a pronounced example of this visible in the upper left corner of the new image.
By tracking these features from orbit, scientists can observe the processes that shape the surface of Mars and change the appearance of the polar regions.
But the image of spring in the southern hemisphere of Mars isn’t just full of surface features. Also visible are hazy clouds above the surface of Mars. Most visible in the center of the image, these clouds contain water ice and their trajectory is influenced in part by the topography of the underlying terrain.
During the Martian winter, carbon dioxide is deposited on both Martian poles as ice, which then thaws and sublimes in the spring. The release of gas back into the Martian atmosphere raises atmospheric pressure and causes high winds.
These winds, in turn, drive the massive exchange of material between the Martian surface and atmosphere throughout the Martian year.
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