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ESA Releases Images of Stunning Mosaic of Mars' North Pole

Feb 21, 2017 09:47 AM EST
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Every inch of the red planet is intriguing. Until today, agencies observing the planets reveal amazing discoveries and images taken of Mars. The European Space Agency (ESA) recently released a mosaic that shows the swirling spirals on the North Pole of Mars.

The image shows the polar ice cap with remarkable and distinctive dark spiraling troughs. The image was obtained by the said agency by combining 43 individual strips that were captured from years 2004 to 2010. Cameras aboard ESA's ExoMars Mars Express captured a total coverage area of one million square kilometers of the planet's northern cap.

"The ice cap is a permanent fixture, but in the winter season -- as it is now in early 2017 -- temperatures are cold enough for around 30 percent of the carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere to precipitate onto the cap, adding a seasonal layer up to a metre thick," an ESA official said in a press release.

The spotted polar ice cap is not a rare occurrence on the red planet. In fact, Mars is constantly experiencing changing climate just like Earth, although it experiences weather changes in a more extreme level. NASA rovers and landers were able to gather information about the climate activities on the red planet during their stay on Mars.

"The similar tilts of Earth and Mars give both planets a yearly rhythm of seasons. But some differences are great, such as in comparisons between day and night temperatures," said Ashwin Vasavada of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement.

The carbon dioxide ice turns into gas during summer on Mars. The gas then escapes into the atmosphere, leaving behind water-ice layers that were captured by ESA. Meanwhile, experts believe that strong winds have something to do with the swirling spirals visible on the image.

The spirals are thought to have formed through long years of exposure to winds like the plunging canyon called Chasma Boreale. The feature appears to be growing even deeper with visible ice deposits near it.

Instruments aboard ESA's Mars Express and NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter help in the observation of the polar ice caps and weather on Mars in general.

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