The surface of Mars gets somewhat warm during the summer, but on average, temperatures on the surface are around -81 degrees F. It’s too cold for human life, and in case you didn’t know, Mars has snow, frost, and even dry ice.
NASA recently released a slew of images showing the “winter wonderland on Mars,” and the photos are wild. It’s not often that we get a look at winter on Mars, mainly because the red planet’s elliptical orbit takes a lot longer than Earth. In fact, a single Mars year is roughly two Earth years, and the wait for winter is longer than ever.
While Mars is typically cold and dry, it does have snow. It only occurs at the coldest points of the planet, the poles, where temperatures reach a mind-boggling negative 190 degrees Fahrenheit (-123 degrees Celsius).
This isn’t the first time NASA has captured images of snow, frost and other cold-weather formations on the planet, but we’ve never actually seen snowfall. That’s because surface missions can’t handle freezing temperatures, and any cameras orbiting the planet can’t see through all the winter clouds. Plus, it only snows at night, making things even more difficult.
That said, the images released this week give us a deep look at all the snow, and it’s fascinating. NASA explained that there are two types of snow on Mars: typical water ice and carbon dioxide, or dry ice.
Due to frigid cold temperatures and thin air, the snow becomes a gas before it even touches the ground. However, dry-ice snow does reach the ground at times. The dry ice is translucent, too, allowing sunlight and heat gasses to escape, making crazy formations like the image at the top of the page.
In closing, NASA says that Scientists have started studying the dry ice formations, especially as they thaw in the spring and erupt, which is helping the team figure out which way the wind blows on the planet. It’s interesting stuff, but I’ll stay comfortably on Earth, where winter temperatures are somewhat tolerable.