Long weird clouds formed so many times over the same Vulkan Martian that scientists gave up and named it.
Meet the Arsia Mons elongated Cloud, or the AMEC. Its bright long trail has become a familiar feature on the summit known as Arsia Mons, to the southeast of the most famous Olympus Mons. Although the clouds come and go above the volcano, scientists say it is not formed by the volcano itself. And it’s timely: Scientists affiliated with the Europe Express Mars Express orbiter were waiting for it to reappear in its annual cycle.
“We’ve been investigating this intriguing phenomenon and we’ve been waiting to see a cloud shape right now,” Jorge Hernandez-Bernal, Ph.D. candidate at the University of the Basque Country in Spain and the lead author of the ongoing study, said in a statement released by the European Space Agency (ESA), which manages the spacecraft.
Photos: Red planet seen from Europe̵7;s Mars Express
“This elongated cloud forms every time Martian Year during this season around the southern solstice, and repeats for 80 days or even longer, “said Hernandez-Bernal.” However, we still don’t know if the clouds are ever so impressive. “
So far, scientists have caught cloud clocks as far as 1,100 miles (1,800 kilometers), according to ESA. The tail-like structure is made of water ice, and despite its location on Mons Arsia, it is not formed by the volcano itself, scientists said, but rather the way local winds interact with the topography.
And Arsia Mons ’elongated Cloud doesn’t just come, stick for a while, then dissipate. It forms and disappears over the course of a few hours each local morning, then returns the next day. This makes the strange clouds difficult to study from an orbit around the Red Planet.
But Mars Express is uniquely qualified to do so. Carries an instrument called the Visual Monitoring Camera, which can record the usual wide swath of the planet in a single frame. And the spacecraft’s orbit puts Arsia Mons in its view during the morning hours when the cloud appears.
“The extent of this huge cloud can’t be seen if your camera has only a narrow field of view, or if you only observe in the afternoon,” said Eleni Ravanis, a graduate apprentice in the Visual Monitoring Room team. . the statement. “Fortunately for Mars Express, the spacecraft’s highly elliptical orbit, combined with the wide field of the VMC instrument, allows us to take photos covering a wide area of the planet early in the morning. That means we can capture it!”
Scientists Clouds seen with the last tail of Arsia Mons in September and October 2018. Then and again now, the days are the shortest of the year in the northern hemisphere of the Red Planet and the longest of the year in the hemisphere of the South. Monsignor Arsia itself is located just south of the Martian equator and extends to an altitude of about 12 miles (20 km).
Scientists hope that by continuing to study the strange clouds, they will be able to begin to understand how long it has been making its appearances and why it only appears in the morning.
Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.