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The return of an extremely elongated cloud on Mars



The return of an extremely elongated cloud on Mars

Credit: ESA / GCP / UPV / EHU Bilbao

A mysteriously long thin cloud reappeared on the 20 km high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars.

The recurring feature is formed by water ice, but despite its appearance, it is not a cloud associated with volcanic activity. Instead, the curious current is created as the air flow is influenced by the “leeward”

; slope of the volcano – the side that is not facing the wind.

These cloud images, which can reach a length of up to 1800 km, were captured on July 17 and 19 by a visual monitoring camera (VMC) on Mars Express, which has been studying Red Planet from orbit for the past 16 years. .

“We researched this interesting phenomenon and expected there to be such a cloud around,” explains Jorge Hernandez-Bernal, Ph.D. candidate at the University of the Basque Country (Spain) and principal author of ongoing studies.

“This elongated cloud forms every Martian year around the southern solstice during this season and repeats after 80 days or more after a fast daily cycle. But we don’t know yet if they are always impressive enough. “

The Martian day or salt is slightly longer than Earth day after 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds. A year on the Red Planet consists of 668 salts, about 687 days, so the seasons last twice as long.

The Southern Solstice is the time of year when the Sun is in a southern position on the Martian clouds, just like on December 21 on Earth. In the early morning hours during this period, this volatile cloud grows for about three hours and disappears rapidly a few hours later.

Most spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet tend to observe in the afternoon, but Mars Express is well placed to gather and provide vital information about this unique effect.

“The extent of this huge cloud cannot be seen if your camera has only a narrow field of view, or if you only observe in the afternoon,” says Eleni Ravanis, a young Mars Express intern who works specifically for VMC.

“Fortunately for Mars Express, the highly elliptical spacecraft orbit combined with VMC’s wide field of view allows us to take photos covering a wide area of ​​the planet early in the morning. That means we can catch her! ”

Mars Express’s scientific team has now called the cloud the Arsia Mons Elongated Cloud, AMEC. So how long does it disappear and reappear? Why is it formed only early in the morning? Stay tuned as scientists continue to investigate and uncover more secrets from Mars.


Mars Express oversees the curious cloud


Provided by the European Space Agency



Citations: The return of an extremely elongated cloud on Mars (2020, July 30), obtained on July 30, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-07-extremely-elongated-cloud-mars.html

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