It’s spring on Mars and the mysterious polygons are in bloom, a new image from the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HIRISE) orbital camera shows.
Taken on March 30, 2022, the image reveals a tick of white zigzags shooting across Martian soil at high latitudes, with occasional splashes of black and blue fog between them. Zigzags and colorful sprays are recognizable features of the Martian Spring, when hidden underground ice reservoirs rest on the dry surface of Mars, wrote researchers from the University of Arizona – which manages the HIRISE mission – in statement on Monday (June 20).
“Both water and dry ice play a major role in shaping Mars’ surface at high latitudes,” the researchers wrote. “Water ice frozen in the ground divides the ground into polygons.”
The edges of these polygons become cracked and worn in the spring as surface ice turns from solid to gas – a process known as sublimation. When this transformation occurs, openings of dry ice spray from the surface of Mars, leaving dark deposits of fan-shaped particles spread across the ground, the researchers said. Where dark particles sink back into dry ice on the surface, bright markings (seen as whitish-blue streaks in the image above) stain the ground.
One ice hole can open and close multiple times, scattering particles in different directions across the surface of Mars depending on the wind. That is why some areas show several different light and dark stripes protruding from one opening. Both fans and polygons can linger for years, slowly distorting the Martian landscape as ice expands and shrinks seasonally.
The HIRISE camera rides on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which began its mission in 2006. Flying between about 155 and 196 miles (250 to 216 kilometers) above the planet, the orbiter has captured a treasure trove of bizarre and entertaining images over the past few decades. For example, in 2018, the orbiter saw the formation of rocks and craters that are identical bug-eyed Muppet Beakermeep-meeping near the south pole of Mars.
Perhaps the orbiters are even more impressive pictures of Valles Marineristhe largest canyon in ours solar system (and therefore the largest known canyon in space). In the range of almost 10 times longer than EarthThe Grand Canyon and three times deeper, the canyon remains a mystery of Martian geology; scientists are not really sure how it came to be. If some Muppets were involved, they are hiding the truth for themselves.
Originally posted on Live Science.
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