Saturday, April 04, 2009

Spring blooms detected on Mars

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured extraordinary images of geological activity as Spring arrives on the Red Planet. The beautiful images almost look as if they are biological in nature, but in reality they are caused by plumes of carbon dioxide vaporising from solid blocks of dry ice. During the Martian winter, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere builds up an underground layer of dry ice as much as a metre thick. As the planet warms up in the spring, the ice returns to a vapour, and as it finds weak points or cracks in the surface, it pours out, bringing with it a payload of dust that forms bizarre looking patterns on the surface. More details are available at the JPL website.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona