Scientists Confused over “900 Mile High Plume” Coming Off of Mars

Similar to those bizarre, unexplainable white storms on Uranus, a huge, unexplained “plume” is emerging on the surface of Mars.

Right now, the cloud emerging on Mars, visible from Earth is now over 900 miles long. It is believed that volcanic activity is responsible for the plume, according to the scientists that people cite but may not for certain agree with.

Since September 13, now nearly 2 months ago, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express has been in the process of observing the “evolution of an elongated cloud formation hovering in the vicinity of the 20 km-high Arsia Mons volcano, close to the planet’s equator,” as they report.

It’s not quite exactly linked to volcanic activity as far as they know, but the experts believe this is a water ice cloud, driven by the influence of the leeward slope of the volcano, on airflow. That’s something that scientists refer to as a lee cloud, or an orographic cloud.

That is considered to be a regular phenomenon in this region of Mars, so it would seem as if an official explanation for this fits like a glove.

On their research, the ESA said that Mars just underwent its northern hemisphere winter solstice on October 16.

They say that in the months leading up to the conclusion of that solstice, normally most cloud activity disappears over the planet’s large volcanoes like Arsia Mons. Throughout the rest of the Martian year, this summit is reportedly covered with clouds.

However, the researchers say a water ice cloud that is seasonally recurrent, like the one you see in the image, is actually already known to form along the southwest flank of that volcano.

On other missions in 2009, 2012, and 2015 this type of thing was previously observed, and it was observed by the Mars Express.

Throughout much of the martian day, the appearance of the apparently re-occurring cloud varies. During the local morning, it apparently grows in length, downwind of the volcano nearly parallel to the equator of Mars.

(Image credit: PA)

Now, it has reached such an incredible size, even telescopes on Earth are capable of spotting it.

The ESA added that the amount of dust present in the atmosphere is another major factor in whether or not the formation of water ice clouds is likely to occur.

A major dust storm engulfed the entire planet of Mars in June and July, but did most people hear about it? The ESA took images after that period of time, and they say the findings will provide “important information on the effect of dust on the cloud development and on its variability throughout the year.”

In addition to these observations, that elongated cloud hovering around the area of Arsia Mons on Mars was also observed with something called OMEGA, a visible and near-infrared mapping spectrometer, and the HRSC, the High Resolution Stereo Camera on Mars Express.

So a lot of scientists were provided with plenty of seemingly good data to study this phenomenon.

Right now if you look in the sky, you’ll notice Mars is in the constellation Capricornus, which is known as the astrology sign Aquarius, because each sign is named for the one behind it.

This is where Mars is at in the sky, this constellation.

(Image credit: tattoodonkey)

(Image credit: youtube)

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