Scientists have taken several pictures of a cloud stretching above the planet Mars, on the edge of a volcano. Scientists are wondering about this phenomenon which recurs at regular intervals.
A camera from the Mars Express probe, launched by the European Space Agency (ESA), spotted a strange cloud on Mars,
reports the organization in a press release. This phenomenon occurred above Arsia Mons, a volcano nearly 20 km high.
However, it is not a plume of smoke linked to volcanic activity, but a cloud made up of ice. It extends over 1,800 km and was formed on the slopes of the volcano, on the side opposite the prevailing winds.
A phenomenon already observed
This type of cloud has already been observed on the Red Planet.
The phenomenon occurs every Martian year (lasting about 687 days), at the time of the southern solstice – which corresponds to our winter solstice. Every morning for about 80 days, the cloud forms before dissipating after three hours.
Scientists therefore expected its arrival, even if they remain perplexed as to the reasons for its formation.
“We have studied this fascinating phenomenon and expected to see such a cloud formation now […] However, we do not yet know if all the clouds are as impressive as this one ”, explains in a press release from ESA Jorge Hernandez-Bernal, of the University of the Basque Country.
The Mars Express probe was able to take images of the entire cloud thanks to its wide-field camera and its “very elliptical” orbit, which is not the case for all devices in orbit around the Red Planet, states the ESA press release.