Mysterious markings on Mars as planet experiences spring

At high latitudes, the image depicts a network of white zigzags on the surface, with sporadic bursts of black and blue mist stirring up between them. At high latitudes, water and dry ice both play a significant part in shaping Mars' surface.
Representative image
Representative imageAP

CHENNAI: There are polygon-shaped markings on the surface of Mars as the planet encounters spring. Mars has four seasons, roughly twice as long as those on Earth. At high latitudes, the image depicts a network of white zigzags on the surface, with sporadic bursts of black and blue mist stirring up between them. At high latitudes, water and dry ice both play a significant part in shaping Mars' surface.

The polygons are caused by water ice that is frozen in the soil and tearing it apart, said the University of Arizona, which oversees the spacecraft in Martian orbit. The edges of these polygons crack in spring as surface ice transforms into a gas by a process called sublimation. "Erosion of the channels forming the boundaries of the polygons by dry ice sublimating in the spring adds plenty of twists and turns to them," the HiRISE team said in a statement.

It should be observed that the zigzags and sprays on the surface are one of the clear signs of spring that cover the planet at higher latitudes when buried pools of underground ice butt up against the parched Martian surface.

The translucent dry ice layer on the surface produces vents that let gas escape, and this gas drags along the tiny particles of surface material, further degrading the channels. "The particles drop to the surface in dark fan-shaped deposits. Sometimes the dark particles sink into the dry ice, leaving bright marks where the fans were originally deposited," the University further added.

Experts have added that as the wind shifts, the vent frequently closes before opening once again to display one or more fans coming from the same location but pointing in various directions. Additionally, light-toned outcrops on the surface with chloride deposits were photographed by the spacecraft.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which was sent to the planet's surface in 2005, carries six sensors, including HiRISE. This camera is an essential tool for assisting to choose landing sites for robotic and future human exploration because of its high-resolution capacity (image up to 30 centimetres per pixel), which is still unmatched for any orbiter in use today in the study of the Red Planet.

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