A mysterious phenomenon that occurred on Mars, which has puzzled scientists (and also Internet users since 2018), begins to be explained with the help of several instruments present in the planet’s orbit: a curious long, thin cloud that extends daily for up to 1,800 kilometers west of the volcano Arsia Mons.
Considered on the internet as a volcanic eruption in 2018, which would be impossible since the volcano where the phenomenon occurs has been extinct for about 50 million years, according to NASA, the giant cloud appears daily during several of the hottest months, exactly in the same location on the red planet.
According to a study published at the end of last year in the journal JGR Planets, a team of researchers began to investigate the life cycle of the cloud, using a camera dubbed the “webcam of Mars” that is on board the space probe Mars Express, from the Space Agency European Union (ESA).
New mission for an old camera
As the giant cloud appears only seasonally, it was not always possible to observe it because its hatching does not coincide with the orbits of the spaceships that surround the red planet. After being observed for the first time by a Russian probe in the 1970s, the cloud was filmed in September 2018, precisely by the Mars Express webcam that was the instrument used in the current research.
The webcam from Mars, officially known as the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), has the same resolution as a web camera from 2003 computers when the mission was launched, but it has a wide field of view, and this was the reason why researchers decided to reactivate it.
In a statement posted on the ESA website on Tuesday (9), the lead author of the survey, Jorge Hernández Bernal, of the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, explained that VMC was originally installed only to confirm the separation the Beagle 2 landing module, of the probe.