Space: What are these mysterious Earth-like clouds seen on Mars?

The European Space Agency released amazing images of the planet Mars on Tuesday.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express probe revealed on Tuesday that the planet Mars produces cloud patterns surprisingly similar to those that can be observed on Earth, especially in tropical regions.

However, the Earth and Mars have very different atmospheres and this parallel had never been observed until then. Dry and cold, Mars’ atmosphere is composed almost entirely of carbon dioxide while Earth’s is rich in nitrogen and oxygen.

The Mars Express images also reveal that Martian dust storms are made up of small, evenly spaced cloud cells arranged like grains or pebbles, a phenomenon unique to Mars. A texture that is also visible in the clouds of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Strong winds with significant consequences

Thanks to its observation, the ESA was also able to calculate the speed of the wind blowing in these Martian storms. Winds could thus reach 140 km/h, causing the shape of the cells to lengthen in the direction of the wind.

“When we think of a Mars-like atmosphere on Earth, we could easily think of a dry desert or a polar region. It is therefore quite unexpected that in following the chaotic movement of dust storms, parallels can be established with the processes that occur in the humid, hot and decidedly very different tropical regions of Mars”, commented Colin Wilson, scientist involved in the Marx Express project.

Preparing for future missions to Mars

These images are useful for trying to understand how planetary atmospheres work and understanding dust storms, but also for preparing future missions to Mars. So strong dust storms could block much of the Sun’s light from reaching rover solar cells on the Red Planet’s surface.

This is what ended, in 2018, the mission of the rover Opportunity whose solar panels had been covered with dust preventing the batteries from recharging.

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