Weird White Cloud Over Mars’ Big Volcano Is Not a Result of an Eruption

This week, the curious photo caught by the Mars Express orbiter showing a long white streak over a Martian volcano amazed people all over the world, stated Advocator. The lack of an atmosphere on Mars and the fact that the Red Planet is almost dead – with no water on the surface and no active volcanoes raised a few eyebrows when the cloud was spotted.

The orbiter took a photo of a 930-mile-long cloud formation that appeared to have emerged from the 12-mile-high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. The phenomenon lasted for a few weeks and made people wonder if the volcano that hasn’t been active for about 50 million years would now wake up. Although it would have been interesting to see this scenario through, the cloud was not coming from an eruption but was still linked to the Arsia Mons

Orographic Lifting on Mars

When the wind hits a huge structure, like Arsia Mons, it is forced to go up. This is when it starts cooling and expanding because of the lower atmospheric pressure. Then, water vapor is formed and condenses and freezes into clouds. This entire chain reaction is called – Orographic lift, and we can also see it on Earth – that is why most mountain regions appear cloudy.

According to the senior scientist Dr. Eldar Noe Dobrea (the Planetary Science Institute), “it turns out not a single one of the observations ever had a clear view of the surface at this point.”

Similar clouds were seen in 2009, 2012, and 2015 during the Martian winter season. This year’s massive dust storm that has put Opportunity rover to deep sleep is also helping the tiny ice particles anchor into the dust grains and makes the clouds more visible.

As for active volcanoes, Mars is not that active anymore. However, Olympus Mons volcano, which is the tallest known mountain in the solar system (13.6 miles high) is dormant – not inactive, but the volcanic activity is so rare that it’s unlikely to be observed.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere