Feeds

NASA reports first sighting of dry ice Martian snowfalls

Carbon-dioxide flakes form and fall

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

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." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.