During last weeks, scientists from the European Space Agency were amazed to notice that a strange cloud formation is surrounding Arsia Mons, one of the largest volcanoes from Mars. The curious images were captured by a piece of equipment involved in the Mars Express mission.
According to estimations, the formation is 930 miles long and, because of its appearance, scientists thought that Arsia Mons is on the verge of eruption. This idea was even more puzzling, since the volcano’s last outbreak happened 50 million years ago.
The unusual phenomenon seems to be caused by the Martian atmosphere
This week, researchers discovered what caused the odd formation’s development: a meteorological process also known as orographic lifting. This happens when the wind hits a massive structure, is pushed upwards and the water vapors from it condense and become frozen clouds.
The best examples which can help us understand the notion of orographic lifting are the mountain regions from Earth. As we know, the highest mountain peaks are often covered in clouds.
No eruption is going to happen on Mars anytime soon
In an interview for New York Times, Dr. Noe Dobrea, a senior scientist from the Planetary Science Institute, declared that the Martian environment has far less water the Earth. Even so, it is enough to form icy clouds that lead to orographic lifting.
Questioned whether orbiting spacecraft sent for observational purposes could fail to notice if an outbreak is imminent on Mars, Dr. Noe Dobrea stated that there is no reason to consider this hypothesis. A spacecraft has the capacity to detect the signs associated with volcanic eruptions: a rise in the methane, sulphur dioxide and other gases levels.
The findings are very helpful and contribute to analysing the overall situation from Mars. By publishing the facts, scientists hope to end all rumours and theories according to which NASA interfered with the volcano’s existence while building a secret base in the caves below it.