The reem was discovered on the highest volcanoes on Mars

The reem was discovered on the highest volcanoes on Mars

A few hours before sunrise, a very thin — but extensive — layer of frozen water can be found on the tops of record-breaking volcanoes on Mars. The researchers reached this surprising conclusion after studying more than 30,000 images of the Red Planet.

This can be read in the magazine Natural Earth Sciences. For the research, scientists examined images of the so-called Tharsis region, near the equator of Mars. This area is home to many supervolcanoes, including record-breaking tall volcanoes such as Olympus Mons. The last volcano is as wide as France, and about 22 kilometers high, and will not only be the tallest volcano on Mars, but also the highest in our entire solar system!

Surprisingly
New research now reveals that the peaks of Olympus Mons and other volcanoes in the Tharsis region are sometimes covered by a very thin layer of water ice. This is surprising, as researcher Adomas Valentinas explains. “We did not consider it likely that frost would form near the Martian equator, as daytime temperatures – due to incoming sunlight and the fact that Mars has a thin atmosphere – are relatively high both at the surface and on mountaintops.”

Temporary and delicate
However, frost has now been detected on high volcanoes. Or more precisely: in the bowl-shaped craters at the top of volcanoes. The thin layer of ice is only present a few hours before sunrise; Once sunlight reaches the tops of volcanoes, it evaporates. The layer of ice is also very thin; Only as thick as a human hair.

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Huge
The ice layer may be thin; They are very spacious and therefore contain a large amount of water. Researchers say it is estimated to be enough to fill 60 Olympic-sized swimming pools. During cold seasons on Mars, this large amount of water can be found alternately in the atmosphere (in the form of water vapor) and on the surface (in the form of a layer of ice on the tops of volcanoes).

Discovery
The discovery of the ice sheet has a long period of time. The researchers found the first indications of its presence in the high-resolution images it took Color and stereo surface imaging system On board the European Space Agency Track the gas orbit. To confirm the existence of the ice layer, observations from the European Space Agency’s Mars Orbiter were used, among others. Mars Express. Ultimately, the researchers analyzed more than 30,000 images to discover and confirm the presence of ice layers.

Local climate
The result is impressive, because it is the first time frost has been detected near the Martian equator. Naturally, this discovery raises questions about how the thin ice layer formed here. Researchers have ideas about that. They suspect that the unique way the air circulates above rising volcanoes creates a type of microclimate in which frost can still form – against all expectations.

In the future, scientists hope to gain more clarity on exactly how the thin ice layer is formed. Ultimately, this should also provide a better picture of where exactly water can be found on Mars, how it moves and what processes occur in this rather thin and complex Martian atmosphere. Such information is of great value for future manned missions to Mars (which take advantage of the presence of water on the Red Planet) and the search for Martian life (or traces of it).

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