NASA has released a new video that shows Mars as a beautiful, yet barren place.
It’s late winter on Mars’ Northern Hemisphere. The Perseverance rover is out exploring an ancient river delta that once fed into Jezero Crater millions of years ago.
Dust is the main feature of Mars. It also drives its weather. Although dust is usually associated with winter’s arrival in Martian, the planet can also be influenced by snow, ice, and frost. Temperatures can drop as low as minus 193 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 123) at the Martian poles.
Two types of snow exist on Mars. The first is made from frozen water. Because of Mars’ thin atmosphere and sub-zero temperatures, traditional snow sublimates (or transitions from a solid to a gas) before reaching Mars.
Another type of Martian snow, which is carbon dioxide-based or dry ice, can fall on the surface. In Mars’ flat regions, near the poles, snow can fall a few feet.
In a NASA release, Sylvain Piqueux, a Mars scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California said that enough snow falls so you could snowshoe across the surface. If you want to ski, however, you would need to travel into a crater, cliffside, or another area where snow could accumulate on a sloped surface.
Since snow falls on the red planet only at night, neither orbiters nor rovers have been capable of seeing it yet, The orbiters’ cameras can’t see through clouds and there are no robot explorers that can survive the freezing temperatures at the poles.
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The Mars Climate Sounder instrument, which is part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, can detect light that is invisible to the human eye. It has detected carbon dioxide snow at the Martian poles. Phoenix, a 2008 Mars lander, used one of its laser instruments for water-ice snow detection from a spot approximately 1,000 miles (1,609 km) from the Martian north Pole.
Photographers have shown us that snowflakes are six-sided and unique. Martian snowflakes might look slightly different if you had a microscope.
Piqueux stated that dry-ice snowflakes would have a cube shape because carbon dioxide ice has four symmetries. “Thanks to Mars Climate Sounder we know these snowflakes will be smaller than a human hair.”
Also, carbon dioxide-based and ice frosts can form on Mars. They may also occur further away from the poles. The Odyssey orbiter, which entered Mars’ orbit in 2001, has observed frost form and turn to gas in sunlight. Viking landers saw icy frost on Mars in the 1970s.
The season’s accumulation of ice can melt and become gas at the end of winter. This creates unique shapes that NASA scientists have compared to Dalmatian spots, Swiss cheese, fried eggs, and spiders.
Winter in Jezero Crater has seen high temperatures of 8 F (minus 13 C) and lows of minus 120 F (minus 85 C) recently.
At Gale Crater, in the Southern Hemisphere, near the Martian Equator, Curiosity’s rover has experienced highs of 5 F (minus15 C) and lows at minus105 F (minus76 C).
Mars’s seasons tend to last longer due to its oval-shaped orbit around the sun. This means that one Martian year takes 687 days. That’s almost two Earth years.
NASA scientists observed the Mars new year with joy on December 26, when it coincided with the spring equinox in Northern Hemisphere.
According to the NASA Mars Facebook page, “Scientists count Mars year starting at the planet’s northern Spring Equinox that occurred in 1955 — an arbitrary point to start but it’s useful to have a system.” “Counting Mars years allows scientists to keep track of long-term observations, such as weather data that NASA spacecraft has collected over the decades.”