How is winter on Mars?: NASA reveals that snow falls in the form of a cube and reaches -123 ° C
Mars is full of surprises and thanks to the numerous space missions that study it, today we can learn what winter is like on the red planet.
NASA recently released information about winter conditions on Mars. As the Red Planet continues its journey towards Earth, various space agency instruments are collecting detailed information about its surface and environment.
Thanks to observations from the HiRISE camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA was able to capture dunes and icy landscapes on parts of Earth that are currently in winter.
In addition, they determined that these blue reliefs that look like this are the result of frost, which consists of “carbon dioxide ice (dry) and water ice, will disappear within a few months of spring,” they explain in an article.
Similarly, research from the Mars Exploration Program (MEP) has shed light on how cold the surface of Mars can be, reaching temperatures as low as -123°C. But the coldness of the neighboring planet does not mean copious snowfalls, as on Earth.
“While it’s cold, don’t expect snowdrifts like the Rocky Mountains. No region of Mars has more than a few feet of snow, and most of it falls on extremely flat areas.
Along the same lines, they point out that winter takes time to arrive due to the orbit of Mars with respect to the sun. “The red planet’s elliptical orbit means winter takes much longer to arrive: a year on Mars is roughly two Earth years.
Winter on Mars brings 2 types of snow
What is striking about these new data on the cold seasons on Mars is the type of snow that falls on the Martian surface. Some snowflakes are even cubes.
This has a scientific explanation directly related to the type of snow, since there are two types of snow on Mars: water ice snow and carbon dioxide snow.
On Mars, snow from water turns to gas before it hits the ground. But in the case of carbon dioxide, its dry ice molecules stick together at four points, not six like snowflakes on Earth, and fall into cubes.
Snow, ice, and frost form on Mars, too! Our orbiters and landers reveal how Red Planet winters compare to those on Earth. 🔴❄️
Learn more: https://t.co/04R81VZ4uT pic.twitter.com/1bg0CrweQ5
— NASA Mars (@NASAMars) December 22, 2022
Furthermore, these cube flakes will be smaller than the width of a human hair, explained the space agency, which collected these exceptional details using the Mars Climate Rover instrument in Earth orbit.
“Perhaps the most incredible discoveries came at the end of winter, when all the accumulated ice began to ‘thaw’ and sublimate into the atmosphere,” the statement said.
The latter gives way to the steam/water eruption. “This ‘melting’ also causes geysers to erupt: the translucent ice allows sunlight to heat the gas below it, which eventually erupts, ejecting dust to the surface,” they note.
The melting of the ice was also on display by the European Space Agency (ESA), which released images of early spring at the south pole of Mars just days before Christmas. There, you can see how the ice melts and forms strange patterns in the craters on Earth.