It May Be Snowing Dry Ice On Mars' South Pole

Mars polar snowObservations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds on Mars and evidence of carbon-dioxide snow falling to the surface.

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

New observations by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicate that there may be “dry ice” snow falling on the Red Planet’s South Pole.This “dry ice snow” would be made up of frozen solid particles of what we know as the gas carbon dioxide — but frozen so cold that it has become a solid. That temperature? -193 F.

This is the only known example of dry ice falling like snow that we know about in our solar system. The study was published Aug 29 in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

“These are the first definitive detections of carbon-dioxide snow clouds,” study researcher Paul Hayne said in a NASA press release. “We firmly establish the clouds are composed of carbon dioxide — flakes of Martian air — and they are thick enough to result in snowfall accumulation at the surface.”

Interestingly, this doesn’t mean that Mars doesn’t have water snow — it’s been detected there too, in the northern latitudes.

More information in the NASA press release.

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