Mars gets its own long white cloud

ESA Mars cloud
The long white cloud on Mars. Photo credit: ESA

It appears at first glance to show a volcanic eruption on Mars, a long white trail of smoke billowing from a red planet peak more than twice the height of Mt Everest.

But the latest fascinating photo sent back by the Mars Express probe is an illusion, astronomers say.

In a release, the European Space Agency described the fog a "curious cloud formation".

The long white cloud stretches 1500km across the Martian sky, and its position - appearing to come from the 22km-high Arsia Mons - is no coincidence.

The full image sent back by Mars Express.
The full image sent back by Mars Express. Photo credit: ESA

Eldar Noe Dobrea of the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona told the New York Times Arsia Mons' massive size is to blame. Water-laden wind is pushed up into the sky by the mountain, where it cools and forms clouds - just like on Earth.

"The air on Mars is much thinner than on Earth, but the rules of weather physics also apply there," wrote Times science reporter Kenneth Chang.

Similar clouds have been spotted in 2009, 2012 and 2015. The current one is so big, it can be seen by anyone with a decent telescope on Earth, the ESA says.


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