Strange 'Blue Pools' on Mars in New Images May be Caused by Extreme Winds

First Posted: Jun 02, 2015 10:06 AM EDT

They may look like cool, clear pools of water on Mars, but they're not. Mars Express has taken new images that reveal blue "pools" on the Red Planet that are actually something else entirely.

On Mars, strong winds whip up dust and sand from the surface into a frenzy. It moves this cloud across the planet at high speeds; in fact, winds can hit up to 100 km/hr-enough to create giant dust storms that settle across huge swathes of Mars, lasting for many days or even weeks.

As these winds travel across the planet's surface, they carve their surroundings. They erode and smooth the landscape, wearing away at the planet's features over millions of years.

In fact, this is exactly what the new image from the Mars Express orbiter shows. It reveals part of the Arabia Terra region, which is scattered with craters of varying sizes and ages. The craters, which were caused by impacts in Mars' past, all show different degrees of erosion. Some still have defined outer rims and clear features within them, while others are much smoother and featureless, almost seeming to run into one another or merge with their surroundings.

The largest crater in this image also has the steepest rim. This crater dominates the left, southern, side of the frame. The blue "liquid" that you can see within it is actually an optical illusion caused by the image processing. The blue-hued patches are really dark sediments that have built up over time due to the wind, which carries dark, volcanic, basalt-rich deposits across the planet.

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