Decades ago, as we gazed at the stars and planets above our heads, we’d be lost in reverie trying to imagine what different worlds would be like. Now, thanks to scientific breakthroughs we know how some planets look like. Take Mars, for instance, a planet puzzling scientists for so much time. A new discovery says that on Mars snowflakes are super tiny.
Given that traveling to Mars is not yet possible, scientists are investigating it any way they can. For now, spacecrafts have been sent to navigate around Mars and gather data. Scientists analyzed that data sent by Mars Global Surveyor and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and found quite an interesting fact: on Mars, snowflakes are so tiny, their size equals that of human red blood cells.
The winter season on the Red Planet couldn’t be more different that Earth’s. While on our planet the winter comes with huge white snowflakes dropping from puffy clouds, on Mars snowing has a different meaning. Given that on Mars the snowflakes aren’t made of water, but CO2 temperatures have to drop to -193 degrees Fahrenheit to have the carbon freeze and get clustered into clouds.
Basically when it snows on the Red Planet, the phenomenon is more like fog. Kerry Cahoy with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, explained snowflakes on Mars “are very fine particles, not big”. If humanity is ever going to step on the Red Planet’s surface, it would find snowing look more like fog because of the very tiny particles.
Moreover, scientists found that the size of Mars’s snowflakes differs from one pole to the other. During the winter, snow clouds reside at the poles and expand half the distance towards the planet’s equator. At the north pole, snowflakes are sized between 8 to 22 microns, while at the south pole, snowflakes are even smaller, with sizes varying from 4 to 13 microns.
By investigating Mars’s snowflakes, scientists are going to be able to retrieve more data about the planet’s atmosphere. Renyu Hu, researcher working on the data gathered by spacecrafts, explained the size and composition of the tiny particles would give insight on how much sun energy they need or whether or not they reflect or absorb it.