NASA images reveal the eerie beauty of winter on Mars

NASA images reveal the eerie beauty of winter on Mars
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Mars may seem like a dry, desolate place, but the red planet transforms into an otherworldly wonderland in winter, so a new video shared by NASA.

It is late winter in the northern hemisphere of Mars, where the Perseverance Rover and Ingenuity Helicopter explore an ancient river delta that once emptied into the Jezero Crater billions of years ago.

As the main feature of the planet Dust also drives Martian weather. Dust usually heralds the arrival of winter, but snow, ice and frost are no strangers to our planet. Temperatures can drop to minus 190 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 123 degrees Celsius) at the poles of Mars.

There are two types of snow on Mars. One is the kind we experience on Earth, which is made up of frozen water. Thin Martian air and sub-zero temperatures mean that conventional snow sublimates, or goes directly from a solid to a gas, before it hits the ground on Mars.

Mottled carbon dioxide frost, or dry ice, can be seen in a crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars during winter.

The other type of Martian snow is based on carbon dioxide or dry ice and can land on the surface. Mars typically falls a few meters of snow in its flat regions near the poles.

“Enough falls to snowshoe over,” said Sylvain Piqueux, a Mars scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, in a statement from a NASA release. “However, if you wanted to ski, you would have to go into a crater or cliff where snow could accumulate on a sloped surface.”

So far, no orbiters or rovers have been able to do this see that Snow falls on the red planet because the weather phenomenon occurs only at night under cloud cover at the poles. The orbiters’ cameras cannot see through the clouds, and no research robots have been developed that could survive the freezing temperatures at the poles.

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However, the Mars Climate Sounder instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can detect light that is invisible to the human eye. It has made evidence of carbon dioxide snow falling at the poles of Mars. That phoenix lander, what has arrived on Mars in 2008, also used one of its laser instruments to detect water ice snow from its location about 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) from the north pole of Mars.

Thanks to photographers, we know that snowflakes are unique on earth and six-sided. Under a microscope, Martian snowflakes would likely look slightly different.

“Because carbon dioxide ice has a symmetry of four, we know that dry ice snowflakes would be cube-shaped,” Piqueux said. “Thanks to the Mars Climate Sounder, we can say that these snowflakes are smaller than the width of a human hair.”

Thawing frost created unique patterns on the Martian dunes during the spring of July 2021.

Ice and carbon dioxide-based freezes are also forming on Mars, which can occur further from the poles. The Odyssey orbiter (which entered orbit Mars in 2001) has observed frost forming and turning into a gas in sunlight, while the Viking landers discovered icy frost on Mars upon arrival in the 1970s.

At the end of winter, the season’s ice formation can thaw and turn to gas, creating unique shapes that NASA scientists have reminded of Swiss cheese, Dalmatian spots, fried eggs, spiders, and other unusual formations.

During Winter in Crater LakeRecent highs have been around 8 F (minus 13 C), while lows have been around minus 120 F (minus 84 C).

In the meantime, at Gale Crater in the Southern Hemisphere Near the Martian equator, the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars in 2012 experienced highs of 5°F (minus 15°C) and lows of 5°C minus 105 F (minus 76 C).

Seasons on Mars tend to last longer because the planet’s oval orbit around the Sun means a single Martian year lasts 687 days, or almost two Earth years.

Ice frozen in the ground left polygonal patterns on the surface of Mars.

NASA scientists celebrated the Martian New Year on December 26, which coincided with the arrival of the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere.

“Scientists are counting Martian years from the planet’s northern vernal equinox, which occurred in 1955 — an arbitrary starting point, but it’s useful to have a system,” reads a post on the NASA Mars Facebook Page. “The numbering of Martian years helps scientists keep track of long-term observations, such as weather data, collected by NASA spacecraft over the decades.”

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