Diamond Ice on Mars

Sunrise on Mars, taken by the Phoenix lander. Image courtesy NASA, JPL, University of Arizona
Sunrise on Mars, taken by the Phoenix lander. Image courtesy NASA, JPL, University of Arizona
 

Sometimes it snows on Mars.  In autumn, the snow is probably water ice, and in the depths of winter, when temperatures drop to -125 º C, it’s carbon dioxide snow.

The atmosphere is thin and dry, and the temperature drops very fast after sunset, so the snow flakes are tiny, about 7 microns in diameter, like a human red blood cell.  In fact, it’s a lot like the diamond ice that forms in Antarctica – like fog, but with tiny ice crystals instead.

Diamond dust in Antarctica. Credit: Wikipedia commons
Diamond dust in Antarctica. Credit: Wikipedia commons

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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