January 25th, 2008

Mars

Astro-image of the day: ice clouds on Mars

This is cool: A recently released study shows that Mars has high-level clouds thick enough to cast shadows on the surface. These photos were shot by the Mars Express OMEGA spectrometer. Here's the write-up in their words:

"Mars is not entirely a haven for Sun worshippers. Clouds of water ice particles do occur, for example on the flanks of the giant Martian volcanoes. There have also been hints of much higher, wispy clouds made up of carbon dioxide (CO2) ice crystals. This is not too surprising, since the thin Martian atmosphere is mostly made of carbon dioxide, and temperatures on the fourth planet from the Sun often plunge well below the ‘freezing point’ of carbon dioxide. Now, a team of French scientists has shown that such clouds of dry ice do, indeed, exist. Furthermore, they are sometimes so large and dense that they throw quite dark shadows on the dusty surface."

Cool beans!

Click the image to see the story.

Sorry that I've been remiss in my almost-daily Astro-image of the day lately.

Best,
Chris