Feeds

NASA reports first sighting of dry ice Martian snowfalls

Carbon-dioxide flakes form and fall

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
Major cyber attack hits Norwegian oil industry
Statoil, the gas giant behind the Scandie social miracle, targeted
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?