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Unexpected discovery on Mars' equator surprises research team – 'We thought it was impossible'

Unexpected discovery on Mars' equator surprises research team – 'We thought it was impossible'

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The surprising discovery at the Martian equator changes understanding of water transport on Mars and could impact future missions.

BERN – Although Mars is considered a dry planet that lost its water long ago, there are areas where water ice has been discovered. For example, it is known that there is water ice at the poles of the Red Planet, but a new discovery at the equator of Mars surprised scientists. This amazing discovery was made with the help of the European Space Agency's ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Mars Express space probes.

“We thought it was impossible for frost to form around the Martian equator because the combination of sunlight and a thin atmosphere increases the thickness of the ice,” explains Adomas Valentinas, a former doctoral student at the University of Bern and now a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University in the US. Temperatures are relatively high both on the surface and on mountaintops – unlike on land, where one can expect frozen peaks.

Researchers make an important discovery at the equator of Mars

Valentinas, in cooperation with an international research team, analyzed data from the European Mars probes and discovered the unexpected frost. It was the study In the specialized magazine Natural Earth Sciences published. A thin layer of frost has been found on the tops of the volcanoes of Tharsis, including the tallest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, and the long-extinct Mount Arsia, near which a “hole” in the Martian soil was recently discovered.

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The largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, was photographed early in the morning by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. The image was taken early in the morning (7:20 a.m. local solar time), which is why an unexpectedly thin layer of frost can be seen. © European Space Agency/German Aerospace Center/Vu University Berlin

The newly discovered layers of frost are extremely thin, reaching the thickness of a human hair (one-hundredth of a millimeter). They only appear for a few hours at sunrise and then evaporate in the sunlight. Valentinas explains: “The amount of frost is equivalent to about 150,000 tons of water exchanged daily between the surface and the atmosphere during the cold season, which is equivalent to about 60 Olympic swimming pools.”

Mars researcher is convinced: “The discovery of frost at this stage is exciting.”

The researcher confirms: “The discovery of frost at this site is exciting and indicates that there are unusual processes underway that enable the formation of frost.” Volcanoes.

“Finding water on Mars is always exciting.”

Nicholas Thomas supervises the TGO “CaSSIS” camera, which has provided more than 5,000 high-resolution color images of Mars for study. “Understanding where water is located and how it is transported is relevant to future Mars missions and potential human exploration,” he asserts. He adds: “The fact that we have now been able to detect the nocturnal deposition of water ice on Mars at optical wavelengths and at high resolution is further evidence of the impressive scientific capabilities of the camera system in Bern.”

Colin Wilson, who works for ESA on both the TGO lander and the Mars Express lander, enthuses: “Finding water on Mars is always exciting, both in terms of scientific interest and because of its implications for human and robotic exploration of the planet. However, This discovery is particularly remarkable. (unpaid bill)