June 14, 2024


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Early morning frost was observed on some of Mars' huge mountains  Mars

Early morning frost was observed on some of Mars' huge mountains Mars

Early morning frost has been spotted on some of the largest mountains in the solar system, massive Martian volcanoes three times the height of Mount Everest near the planet's equator.

In the colder months, a fine dust of ice, thinner than a human hair, appears to form overnight in volcano summit craters, or calderas, and on parts of their rims and then evaporates a few hours after sunrise.

While the frosty layer is exceptionally thin, it covers an enormous area. Scientists estimate that in the colder seasons on Mars, 150,000 tons of water, the equivalent of 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools, condense daily on the tops of towering mountains.

“This is the first time we have discovered water frost on the tops of volcanoes, and the first time we have discovered water frost in the equatorial regions of Mars,” said Adomas Valentinas, a planetary scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland and Brown University. in the United States.

Spacecraft in orbit around Mars have previously sent back evidence of frozen and liquid water on the red planet, with large amounts of ice seen at the north and south poles. Patterns on the landscape suggest that the planet was once a wetter, possibly habitable world, filled with giant lakes and meandering rivers.

“What we see could be a trace of Mars’ past climate,” Valentinas said of the permafrost-capped volcanoes. “It could be related to atmospheric climate processes that were occurring earlier in Mars’ history, perhaps millions of years ago.”

Valentinas spotted the frost-covered volcanoes in high-resolution color images taken in the early morning hours on Mars by the European Space Agency's Tracking Gas Orbiter (TGO).

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He and his colleagues confirmed the discovery using a spectrometer on TGO and other images taken by the agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Frost appears as a bluish tint on caldera floors and is absent on well-lit slopes.

The Tharsis region of Mars is a vast volcanic plateau near the planet's equator. It is home to dozens of large volcanoes, including Pavonis Mons and Olympus Mons, which are about nine and 16 miles high, respectively, nearly two and three times the height of Everest. Olympus Mons is much wider than it is tall, covering an area the size of France.

Scientists believed that frost was unlikely to form on the tops of Tharsis volcano because sunlight and the thin Martian atmosphere keep temperatures relatively high during the day, both at the peaks and at ground level.

but, Writing in the natural earth sciencesResearchers describe how Martian winds could blow down mountainsides and carry more humid air into the caldera where it condenses and settles as frost at certain times of the year. Modeling of the process suggests that the frost is water ice because the peaks are not cold enough to form carbon dioxide frost.

John Bridges, Professor of Planetary Science at the University of Leicester, said the work demonstrated the continued success of the TGO mission and the Color and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS) camera.

He added: “Understanding the current water cycle on Mars in the atmosphere and near the surface will be important for future exploration missions, including human missions, as water will be the main resource on site.”

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