A huge haze of cloud spotted above Mars cannot be explained by scientists and could change our understanding of Mars’ atmosphere.
The giant “bright, extremely high-altitude plumes” were spotted twice in 2012, but then disappeared. Scientists have analysed the haze, which is larger than any seen before, in an attempt to understand what caused it to happen.
The plume could be a very bright aurora or a large cloud, the scientists say. “Importantly, both explanations defy our current understanding of Mars’ upper atmosphere,” the authors of the new study write in Nature.
Scientists are unsure how either of the explanations could have happened.
"It raises more questions than answers," said Antonio Garcia Munoz, who works at the European Space Agency as a planetary scientist.
The most plausible explanation argues that the cloud was formed by pieces of frozen carbon dioxide or water vapour. But that would mean that Mars' atmosphere is much colder than previously thought.
The plume was first spotted by amateur astronomers in March 2012. It was seen by at least 18 of the Mars-watchers — though not by the imaging systems that’s on board the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter, because of the time that they take pictures.
Scientists hope that probes floating around Mars will eventually see the plume. The next opportunity for amateur astronomers to see the plume is in 2016 — though at the most recent chance, in April 2014, astronomers didn’t spot any of the clouds.
Where to explore in the solar system
Where to explore in the solar system
1/10 Mars - Olympus Mons
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2/10 Mars - Mount Sharp
Mount Sharp is the current focus point of the Mars Science Laboratory’s Curiosity rover. Sitting at the forefront of Martian research this location will hopefully unlock the secrets of Mars’s past.
3/10 Ida and Dactyl
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4/10 Jupiter - The Red Spot
Getting tired of leisurely cruises through the Caribbean? Why not float a dirigible through one of the oldest known storms in the Solar System. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is large enough to contain three Earths and has been present for over 300 years.
5/10 Moon - Sea of Tranquility
As the landing site of the first ever humans to set foot on the Moon who wouldn’t want to walk in the footsteps on Neil Armstrong on the Sea of Tranquility?
6/10 Europa - Underwater seas
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7/10 Titan - Methane Lakes
Saturn’s Moon Titan is home to a nice thick atmosphere. Similar to the Earth it supports a full weather cycle. Unlike the Earth, rather than using water, Titan’s cycle is based on methane, often found in gas cookers here on Earth.
8/10 Mimas, the Death Moon
What better location for a holiday snap. The large Herschel crater on Mimas gives this moon an appearance of a certain dark lords ultimate weapon. When viewed from the right angle it appears that the Death Star is in orbit around Saturn.
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10/10 Oceans of Earth
One of the most unexplored places in the Solar System is our own oceans. 70% of the Earth is covered in ocean and as of yet we have only explored around 10% of them. With so much water to explore who knows what we may find lurking in the depths.
It was seen again in April of that year. Research found that similar plumes had been spotted in databases between 2001 and 2014, discovering about 3,500 images depicting the haze.
Studying those images, the scientists found that the plume could be up to 225 kilometres tall.Reuse content