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Discovery of frost on Mars: A surprising discovery near the equator – World –

Discovery of frost on Mars: A surprising discovery near the equator – World –


Thin frost deposits form on Martian volcanoes and then evaporate in the sun.
© AFP Photo/ESA/Adomas Valentinas

Thin frost deposits form on Martian volcanoes and then evaporate in the sun.

An international team of researchers led by the University of Bern has provided evidence of this using high-resolution color images from a Mars camera. Frost was discovered on the peaks of the highest mountains on Mars, the Tharsis volcanoes.

Surprise near the Martian equator

The formation of frost was a surprise to the researchers, as volcanoes are located near the Martian equator, where strong solar radiation tends to keep surface temperatures high. Study leader Adomas Valentinas was quoted as saying in a statement from the University of California: “Rising winds bring air containing water vapor from lowlands, which cools and condenses at higher altitudes. This is a known phenomenon on both Earth and Mars.” Bern on Monday.

Thin frost deposits form on Martian volcanoes and then evaporate in the sun.


Thin frost deposits form on Martian volcanoes and then evaporate in the sun.
© APA/SDA

Very thin deposits

The sediments are very thin, perhaps as thick as a human hair, but they cover huge areas. Valentinas explains, “The amount of frost is equivalent to about 150,000 tons of water exchanged between the surface and the atmosphere every day during the cold season, which is equivalent to about 60 Olympic swimming pools.”

The importance of Mars research

Understanding where water is located and how it moves is likely to be important to many aspects of Mars exploration. In order to detect water ice, the researchers used high-resolution color images from the Mars CaSSIS camera. This is on board the “ExoMars” probe, a space program affiliated with the European Space Agency (ESA).

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The European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars and Mars Express missions have detected water frost for the first time near the Martian equator, a region of the planet where frost was previously thought to be impossible.


The European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars and Mars Express missions have detected water frost for the first time near the Martian equator, a region of the planet where frost was previously thought to be impossible.
© Agence France-Presse

CaSSIS was developed and built by an international team led by Nicholas Thomas from the Institute of Physics at the University of Bern. The camera has been observing Mars since 2018. The study on water ice on Martian volcanoes was published in the journal Nature Geoscience.