The European Space Agency has just spotted some Earth-like clouds more than 53 million miles from our planet.
In a study published on November 15 in the magazine IcarusThe European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express probe observed two dust storms in 2019 on red planet that produced patterns of clouds eerily reminiscent of those on Earth. Despite the fact that both planets have incredibly different atmospheres — Mars is dry and cold while Earth is dense, moist and warm — dust clouds will billow and spiral like those that occur during extratropical cyclones on Earth.
This observation gives researchers more insight into the natural processes of cloud formation, despite the vast differences between the two planets.
“When thinking of a Mars-like atmosphere on Earth, one might easily think of a dry desert or a polar region. It is quite unexpected, then, that by tracing the chaotic movement of dust storms, parallels can be drawn with the processes that occur in the humid and hot tropics and which It’s not quite like Mars,” Colin Wilson, Mars Express of the European Space Agency (ESA) project scientist, he said in a statement. Wilson was not directly involved in the study.
The storms occurred during spring in the Martian north pole, a period when storms usually form on the Red Planet. As the dust entered the atmosphere, it began to form smaller cloud cells with a grain-like texture — reminiscent of those on Earth. This happens when hot air rises due to the density of the cooler air around it.
You can see the same phenomenon happen in cumulus clouds on Earth that form when it’s about to rain. Instead of the water droplets that make up the clouds here, Martian clouds are made of dust heated up by the sun and causing it to rise.
Insights from the 2019 storm help inform us about how the atmospheres work on different planets, while also helping us understand how dust storms on Mars could affect future astronauts. For example, a massive dust storm followed by massive cloud patterns could block sunlight from hitting important solar panels on Mars colonies or rovers. Knowing how these clouds form and how long they last can help prevent these systems from losing energy.
The researchers note that future studies could build on their findings by comparing cloud formations on Earth with those on Mars as well. Venus. This could help shed more light on how these dust clouds operate on the Red Planet and beyond.
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