The shrinking and growth of the poles of Mars


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Using infrared data from several Mars orbiters over a period of a full Martian year, equivalent to two Earth years, scientists have created an animation showing the growth and retreat and regrowth of the carbon dioxide icecaps of the red planet’s two poles.

This animation shows a side-by-side comparison of CO2 ice at the north (left) and south (right) Martian poles over the course of a typical year (two Earth years). This simulation isn’t based on photos; instead, the data used to create it came from two infrared instruments capable of studying the poles even when they’re in complete darkness.

As Mars enters fall and winter, reduced sunlight allows CO2 ice to grow, covering each pole. While ice at the north pole is fairly symmetrical, it’s somewhat asymmetrical during its retreat from the south pole for reasons scientists still don’t understand. Scientists are especially interested in studying how global dust events affect the growth and retreat of this polar ice. Mars’ seasons are caused by a tilt in the planet, resulting in winter at one of the planet’s poles while it’s summer at the other.

I have embedded the animation below the fold.

animation of the growth and retreat of the Martian poles

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One comment

  • Kirk

    What’s up with the “black holes” around the poles? Is it an artifact of the animation process? We do have full imagery of the poles, don’t we? Perhaps we do, but not from the particular platform they used to generate the background to the animation?

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