The Seventh International Conference on Mars Polar Science and Exploration was concluded at Argentina yesterday. European Science Agency (ESA) released an image of Mars’ northern icy polar cap to coincide with the conference. The image looks simply breathtaking.
The image was captured by ESA’s own Mars Express spacecraft. The image is adorned with bright patches of ice, deep dark troughs, all of which are highlighting the natural processes that shape the planet’s surface.
It is said that Mars’ seasons are similar to the ones we have here on Earth, even though a Martian year is twice as long as Earth’s. North pole of Mars is a window to the planet’s climate history and is observed and studied enthusiastically by scientists across the world.
As the red planet undergoes various seasonal changes the ice is the polar region also undergoes a transformation, often trapping particles of dust in them. The polar region is covered in large layers of ice, which each layer experiencing a different shift corresponding to the weather pattern at that time period.
Mars Express Orbiter uses an extremely powerful camera, called the High-Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC.) to capture the surface of Mars. Otherwise, Carbon dioxide clouds formed during winter will hide the surface from the orbital view. The HRSC is a powerful, full-colour camera that is imaging the entirety of the Martian surface at a 10-meter resolution.
The HRSC also comes with a channel called the Super Resolution Camera (SRC) that captures images at an even greater resolution of 2.3 meters/pixel of 2.35 km sq, used only in select areas of Mars.
The European spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since 2003 and so far it has captured the entire surface of Mars at 10 meters/pixel with the HRSC, and select areas at 2 meters/pixel with the SRC. The HRSC’s long term mission on the Mars Express is to study Mars’s surface processes over time, including winds and storms, and the seasonal changes at the poles.
So far it has expanded our understanding of how the surface conditions were in Mars for longer parts of its history.