Feeds

NASA reports first sighting of dry ice Martian snowfalls

Carbon-dioxide flakes form and fall

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Scientists using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found definitive proof that flurries of carbon-dioxide snow are falling on the Martian South Pole.

"These are the first definitive detections of carbon-dioxide snow clouds," said Paul Hayne of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement. "We firmly establish the clouds are composed of carbon dioxide - flakes of Martian air - and they are thick enough to result in snowfall accumulation at the surface."

The seven-person team used data from the Mars Climate Sounder onboard the MRO satellite to examine the snow clouds both from above, but also from the side. The instrument scans across nine points of the visible and infrared ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum to detect atmospheric composition.

The snow-bearing clouds were scanned during southern Mars winter in 2006-2007, when a 300-mile diameter cloud hung over the South Pole and shed its load via several smaller cloud systems. The resulting map shows exactly where on the southern pole the carbon accumulates in flaked form.

mars snow fall map

Let's go write our names in the snow (click to enlarge)

NASA's Phoenix lander reported seeing water vapor falling as snow back in 2008, although it didn’t survive reaching the Martian surface. This is the first time carbon dioxide has been spotted in solid form on the Red Planet, and although no precise images of the flakes falling exist, the evidence it there to show them in action NASA says.

"One line of evidence for snow is that the carbon-dioxide ice particles in the clouds are large enough to fall to the ground during the lifespan of the clouds," co-author David Kass of JPL said. "Another comes from observations when the instrument is pointed toward the horizon, instead of down at the surface."

"The infrared spectra signature of the clouds viewed from this angle is clearly carbon-dioxide ice particles and they extend to the surface. By observing this way, the Mars Climate Sounder is able to distinguish the particles in the atmosphere from the dry ice on the surface." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.