It is summer in the southern hemisphere of Mars and strange structures are emerging from the ice.
It is summer at the south pole of Mars and angels and demons come out to play. Both can be seen in a stunning new image of the recently thawed pole, taken by the European Space Agency (ESA).
Demons, it must be said, are made of dust. As on Earth, Martian dust demons form when a pocket of hot air suddenly rises through a column of cold air, creating a rotating updraft. (Unlike on Earth, these dusty cyclones can soar 10 kilometers high.) The tracks of one of those cyclones is observable in the dark region, in the extreme left of the image that this publication illustrates.
And as for the angel? For an explanation, we will have to turn to the heavens. When you look closely at the “halo” around the angel’s head, you can see the steep, sloping walls of an impact crater. According to a statement from ESA, this ethereal feature is the product of the collision of a meteorite that sank deep into the crust of the red planet, building a crater and revealing the layers of ancient sediment beneath.
These ancient layers turn a dark red hue and are visible in this image throughout the angel’s body, as well as in the heart-shaped structure under its right “wing.”
What this reddish material is made of, scientists are not sure. These strange, dark deposits are found all over Mars and are believed to be the result of ancient volcanic activity, long buried beneath the Martian crust.
Erosion, asteroid impacts, and strong winds have slowly brought these mysterious red scars to the surface.
The capture corresponds to ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the red planet since 2004. These mysterious structures near the Martian south pole are now visible only because of the season; normally, the entire area would be covered by a 400 km wide ice sheet.
Source: Live Science