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Scientists Explain Mysterious Mars Plumes Appearance

First Posted: May 25, 2016 06:44 AM EDT
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Space weather may be associated with the Martian atmosphere's strange high-rise clouds that were observed to suddenly appear. According to Mars Express scientists, a mysterious cloud-form plume was reported to be seen in 2012 through a telescope from Earth. The strange object was noticed at the top-out high on the surface of Mars at 250 km altitude, forming in less than 10 hours and visible for 10 days.

However, the exceedingly high altitude makes it difficult to explain the features as it is much higher compared to where ordinary clouds of frozen water and carbon dioxide are believed to be capable of forming in the atmosphere. Which means the high altitude matches with the ionosphere, wherein an atmosphere interacts directly with the coming solar wind with electrically charged atomic particles.

There are speculations regarding the cause, including the aurora emissions, connections with local crustal anomalies, atmospheric conditions or a meteor impact. However,  there has been no possible cause identified yet. It was unfortunate that the spacecraft that orbits Mars was not in a proper position to visually notice the 2012 plume, although scientists have already considered probing into the solar and plasma wind measurements gathered by the Mars Express during that time, according to Giz Mag.

According to reports, an evidence for the big coronal mass ejection was found from the Sun affecting the Martian atmosphere at the right time and at the right place. Based on the findings through the plasma observations, a space weather event existed that was big enough to make an impact on Mars and increase the release of plasma from the red planet's atmosphere.

However, lead author David Andrews of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics revealed that they did not see any signs in the ionosphere to categorically state that everything is due to the existence of the plume. Andrews added that the plume gives emphasis to the scientific possibility for steady monitoring of Mars through ground-based observations and orbiter, particularly using the webcam on Mars Express for frequent Mars coverage, Astronomy reported.

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