On Mars, frost found on the high of big volcanoes | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

The planet Mars has simply revealed a brand new secret: frost has been detected on the high of its gigantic volcanoes, an surprising discovery which can permit a greater understanding of the water cycle of the purple planet, important for future explorations.

Published on :

4 minutes

Frost on the volcanoes of Mars! The scene was captured by likelihood from Martian orbit by the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) probe of the European Space Agency (ESA), within the Tharsis dome close to the equator of Mars, describes a examine revealed Monday in Nature Geosciences.

It is an unlimited elevated area, roughly 5,000 km in diameter, housing immense volcanoes, extinct for thousands and thousands of years. Among them, the most important within the photo voltaic system, Olympus Mons and its 22 km excessive – thrice Everest.

No one anticipated to seek out frost there. “We thought it was impossible around the equator of Mars,” summarizes Adomas Valantinas, the primary writer of the examine behind the invention.

Strong sunshine and really low atmospheric stress “keep temperatures at a fairly high level at the summits and on the surface,” explains this researcher at Brown University within the United States, in an ESA press launch.

In the Tharsis area, temperatures can drop very low – right down to -130 levels at evening – however they don’t rely upon altitude, “unlike what happens on Earth, where we expect see frozen summits,” he analyzes.

The atmosphere of the Martian equator is, moreover, particularly low in water, which makes condensation difficult. “Other probes had observed frost but in wetter regions, notably the northern plains,” Frédéric Schmidt, professor at Paris-Saclay University, one of the authors of the study, explains to AFP.

A shiny, blue deposit

The discovery was therefore fortuitous. The TGO probe, which has been orbiting Mars since 2018, has the advantage of being able to observe its surface at all hours of the day, notes the planetologist specializing in ice in the solar system.

She was thus able to take images when the first rays of the sun arrived. “We saw a shiny, blue deposit, a particular texture that we only see in the early morning and in the cold seasons,” he says.

You had to have a keen eye as the ice deposit is thin – the thickness of a hair – and the phenomenon is furtive. But the quantity of frost present at the summits of four volcanoes (Olympus Mons, Ascraeus Mons, Arsia Mons and Ceraunius Tholus) represents “150,000 tonnes of water circulating between the floor and the ambiance day-after-day, the equal of 60 swimming swimming pools Olympic Games”, feedback the ESA.

3D model of the Martian volcano Olympus Mons observed by the HRSC camera aboard ESA's Mars Express
3D mannequin of the Martian volcano Olympus Mons noticed by the HRSC digicam aboard ESA's Mars Express © Adomas Valantinas / AFP

How to elucidate it? The authors of the examine recommend the existence of a micro-climate contained in the volcanoes' calderas, their huge round craters. The winds would transfer up the slopes of the mountains, “bringing relatively humid air close to the surface to higher altitudes, where it condenses and is deposited in the form of frost,” says Nicolas Thomas, co-author of the examine. .

“We observe this phenomenon on Earth and in other regions of Mars,” provides the principal investigator of TGO's Color and Stereoscopic Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS).

Modeling the method of frost formation ought to permit us to raised perceive the water cycle – its dynamics of motion between the floor, the ambiance, the equator and the poles – “one of the best kept secrets” of the purple planet, in accordance with the ESA.

An essential step for future human and robotic explorations. “We could recover water from the frost for human consumption, and launch rockets from Mars by separating the molecules of oxygen and hydrogen,” anticipates Professor Schmidt.

Being in a position to map water on the Martian floor – which at present solely exists within the type of vapor or ice – can be finally important to the search for traces of life, the looks of which might have been made potential by the presence of liquid water, between 3 and three.5 billion years in the past.

With AFP