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Enormous dust cloud on Mars

Posted by 3citynewswire on 02/04/2010

Sky-watchers who routinely gaze at Mars observed an abrupt change in the appearance of the planet’s arctic zones. “Over the weekend (Jan 30-31) a dust stream appeared,” said Pete Lawrence of Selsey, UK, “and it is cutting across Mars’ north polar cap.”

He photographed the activity through a telescope as seen above. The bright white area is the polar ice cap of Mars which is composed of a surface layer of frozen carbon dioxide, and vast amounts of water ice beneath. Notice that in the rightmost image, the land mass is obscured. This is evidence of an enormous dust cloud.

It is springtime in the Martian Northern Hemisphere. Temperature differences between polar ice and the more temperate (darker) regions to the south create density boundaries. These generate a pressure field which kicks up wind and giant streamers of reddish dust.

The Hubble Space Telescope had previously observed these huge dust storms at the edge of the northern polar cap. Portions of this report from spaceweather.com

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