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Swirling Spirals at The North Pole of Mars

Perspective view of Mars north polar ice cap. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin; NASA MGS MOLA Science Team

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A new mosaic from ESA’s Mars Express shows off the Red Planet’s north polar ice cap and its distinctive dark spiralling troughs.
The mosaic was generated from 32 individual orbit ‘strips’ captured between 2004 and 2010, and covers an area of around a million square kilometres.
The ice cap is a permanent fixture, but in the winter season – as it is now in early 2017 – temperatures are cold enough for around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the planet’s atmosphere to precipitate onto the cap, adding a seasonal layer up to a metre thick.
During the warmer summer months most of the carbon dioxide ice turns directly into gas and escapes into the atmosphere, leaving behind the water-ice layers.
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The plunging canyon, known as Chasma Boreale, is thought to be a relatively old feature, forming before the ice–dust spiral features, and seemingly growing deeper as new ice deposits built up around it.
Colour mosaic of Mars north polar ice cap. Credit: European Space Agency
Subsurface investigations by radar instruments onboard Mars Express and NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed that the ice cap is made up of many individual layers of ice and dust extending to a depth of around 2 km. This presents a valuable record for the nature of how the planet’s climate has changed as its tilt and orbit varied over hundreds of thousands of years.
Article credit: Phys.org
Provided by: European Space Agency
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