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Mars Polar Cap Mystery Solved

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the feather-in-their-cap dept.

Mars 77

Matt_dk writes "Scientists are now able to explain why Mars' residual southern ice cap is misplaced, thanks to data from ESA's Mars Express spacecraft (the same probe running the 'Mars Webcam'). It turns out the martian weather system is to blame. And so is the largest impact crater on Mars — even though it is nowhere near the south pole. Like Earth, Mars has frozen polar caps, but unlike Earth, these caps are made of carbon dioxide ice as well as water ice. During the southern hemisphere's summer, much of the ice cap sublimates, a process in which the ice turns straight back into gas, leaving behind what is known as the residual polar cap. The mystery was that while the winter cap is symmetrical about the south pole, the residual cap was offset, and scientists couldn't figure out why."

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77 comments

What do they mean 'misplaced'? (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107405)

It's right where I left it.

Re:What do they mean 'misplaced'? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107453)

In the sofa cushions? That's where I usually find my keys. Did NASA find their keys, too? What about the TV remote?

Re:What do they mean 'misplaced'? (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107567)

In the sofa cushions? That's where I usually find my keys. Did NASA find their keys, too? What about the TV remote?

Yep. You should always look in the couch cushions. And under the couch. That's where I found Jesus.

Re:What do they mean 'misplaced'? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25108713)

Yep. You should always look in the couch cushions. And under the couch. That's where I found Jesus.

You work for the Border Patrol or the Bureau of Immigration?

Re:What do they mean 'misplaced'? (1)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109863)

I found Jesus too, he steals hubcaps from cars.

Water Ice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107411)

Frost poast?

Mar's ice cap is made of water ice!

Re:Water Ice (0, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109733)

Frost post

I'd give you a mod-point for that one. It's good for a snicker. (Quote altered slightly for clarification.)

   

Treasury Bailout Package (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107533)

Congress's bailout package will reward failed wall street companies instead of letting them crater and injecting money into solvent banks.

This is an important read for those who have money in banks and stocks, and who hope to make the US their home for the next few decades:
http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2008/09/20/treasurys-financial-bailout-proposal-to-congress/ [wsj.com]

Re:Treasury Bailout Package (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107771)

Most economists agree that Government intervention prolonged the great depression. Likewise, in hindsight, the current bailouts will almost certainly be considered a failure. It might hurt in the short term, but there is a lot of dead wood that needs to be purged. Propping up a decaying company distorts the market and hampers stronger companies that would otherwise step in and fill the void.

Re:Treasury Bailout Package (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107817)

Do you never give up?

Nobody fucking cares here.

The answer is simple (5, Funny)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107561)

Mars did the calculation for one pole in Metric and the other one in Imperial. That's why they don't line up.

Of all people, NASA should know this.

Re:The answer is simple (2, Informative)

isBandGeek() (1369017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107655)

Actually, that's Lockheed Martin [cnn.com] for using Imperial units.

Re:The answer is simple (1)

greysunrise (1261960) | more than 5 years ago | (#25117765)

I bet they used g sub c and not slugs too.....

Solved by first graders? (-1, Flamebait)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107667)

So scientists managed to figure out that the ice cap melted, and that's why it disappeared? I hope they all got their Scooby Snacks for solving this crack case! What's next on their agenda? "Scientists discover that when parents say 'Putting the dog to sleep' they are actually KILLING the dog!"

Re:Solved by first graders? (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110655)

Believe it or not, this explains a lot.

There's a whole lot of people running loose that can't grasp that Earth's ice cap shrinks because of the Earth's summer.

Re:Solved by first graders? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25111507)

No, no, no. Shrinking of polar ice caps is caused by global warming. Fortunately we have Earth's winters to come around and correct that shrinking.

Re:Solved by first graders? (1)

alexj33 (968322) | more than 5 years ago | (#25119435)

Fortunately we have Earth's winters to come around and correct that shrinking.

That's global cooling, my friend. Why else would the ice cap grow so much in so little time?

Alien planet (4, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107787)

It seems absurdly simple, but it is quite foreign to meteorology on our planet to have an impact crater affecting the global climate and weather patterns. That will be just another of those little things that will give future astronauts the "this isn't Kansas anymore" feeling as they live on another planet.

Re:Alien planet (5, Funny)

mmalove (919245) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107825)

"It seems absurdly simple, but it is quite foreign to meteorology on our planet to have an impact crater affecting the global climate and weather patterns."

Tell that to the dinosaurs...

Re:Alien planet (4, Funny)

fizzup (788545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108577)

Tell that to the dinosaurs...

They aren't in Kansas anymore, either...

Re:Alien planet (1, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109011)

Nope. They were outlawed there three years ago [democratic...ground.com] .

Re:Alien planet (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110081)

heh, make sure you don't miss the first two lines when reading that "article."

May 13, 2005
Satire by David Albrecht

Re:Alien planet (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110261)

whooooooosh

Re:Alien planet (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25110907)

morgan_greywolf@tampabay.rr.com

Re:Alien planet (Kansas) (1)

mikehoskins (177074) | more than 5 years ago | (#25113007)

Weather here (in Kansas) is fine, and we do have a lot of former astronauts and astronomers from Kansas.

We also have a must-see, while you're on the topic -- the Cosmosphere! It's got a *lot* more space artifacts than the Air and Space Museum.... Too bad it's in Hutchinson, KS, though:
    http://www.cosmo.org/ [cosmo.org]

Re:Alien planet (4, Informative)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108633)

You seem to be confusing two different effects of a large asteroid impact - initial and long term.

One of the initial effects will be a huge cloud of dust, blocking almost all sunlight for years at at time - this is what caused the mass extinction at the end of the cretaceous. Others include giant tsunamis (if it crashes into a liquid), 'rain' of molten rock and ash, earthquakes, ect ...
However, on Earth, there are few long term effects, none of which include altering global weather patterns long term. This is due to our planet's ever-changing surface, with new land being created, land being destroyed, and of course continental drift. Mars has no active volcanism and no continental drift, therefore a surface feature which would be rapidly (in geological terms) altered on Earth would last for a very, very long time on Mars.

Another thing is that we have a much thicker atmosphere, reducing the size of the asteroid before impact, AND the probability of it hitting solid ground as opposed to water is about 30/70.

Re:Alien planet (1)

danwesnor (896499) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108747)

I wonder if meteorologists on Mars break into regular programing every 15 minutes to tell Martians viewers that there's a thunderstorm 4 counties over.

Re:Alien planet (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109449)

And they probably sound the sirens whenever there's one of those dust devils, too. *rolls eyes*

Re:Alien planet (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109555)

We get broadcasts over here that there are severe weather warnings half a continent away. I don't know why Peachtree TV doesn't have a local feed and a syndication feed.

Re:Alien planet (3, Informative)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108317)

>> it is quite foreign to meteorology on our planet to have an impact crater affecting the global climate and weather patterns.

An impact crater, yes, but other geographic features (both much smaller and much larger than 2300 km) have a huge effect on terrestrial weather.

Re:Alien planet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25108357)

Living on Mars?

How many asteroid belt object must we crash onto Mars to give it a sustainable atmosphere?

Re:Alien planet (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110791)

Well, since most asteroid belt objects are rocky/metallic bodies, you could crash all of them into Mars and not make it in the least bit more livable than it is right now.

Now maybe water bearing Kuiper belt objects...

Re:Alien planet (2, Funny)

DinDaddy (1168147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110813)

Finally, someone has solved the mystery of why weather prediction is called meteorology.

Re:Alien planet (1)

ClownSoup (1138593) | more than 5 years ago | (#25125025)

We don't have mountain ranges on earth that affect both local or global climate? Imagine that.

Bruce Lee rises from grave (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107821)

Oh, no, that's Christopher Lee. He is making Dracula 2010 and is back at Hammer. God Save the Queen and all that.

Marvin vindicated (4, Funny)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107823)

In a press statement, Marvin the Martian's publicist told reporters that Marvin felt joy that hey was vindicated by the scientists' report. "Marvin has said all along that the missing polar cap had nothing to do with his lifestyle decision in owning 12 Hummers or related to his Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator factory emissions." The publicist did answer allegations that the factory used illegal cartoon workers that were drawn and not colored. A spokesduck from the leading cartoon union said, "For cartoons to be drawn and not colored, that's dessssssspicable!"

Re:Marvin vindicated (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108717)

Pfft. That spokesduck is a tracer.

Quick get Al Gore over to Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25107843)

It's global warming on a galactic scale!!

Or, maybe California can find a way to blame it on diesel fuel...

The real reason is that... (5, Funny)

KiwiCanuck (1075767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107909)

Mars prefers to where it's winter cap, gangsta style.

Re:The real reason is that... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25108251)

Wear.

Re:The real reason is that... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109659)

Mars prefers to where it's winter cap, gangsta style.

Wear.

But they are spellin' gangsta style
     

Hmm. The phrase ... (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25107929)

"Knocked into a cocked hat" comes to mind for some reason.

Re:Hmm. The phrase ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25110631)

You did WHAT to your hat!?!?!

Martian atmosphere (5, Insightful)

fprintf (82740) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108037)

I don't know why, but I always though of Mars as a planet without an atmosphere. Perhaps like our Moon, just much bigger. So when first reading the article, I thought that as soon as the carbon dioxide gas sublimated, it would be lost to space.

However, the atmosphere is just really thin: http://starryskies.com/solar_system/mars/martian_atmosphere.html [starryskies.com]

So, thanks to Slashdot, I once again expand my knowledge of the universe and learned something new today!

Maybe now the ending scene in Total Recall makes some more sense? I'll have to rewatch it and see...

Re:Martian atmosphere (1)

am 2k (217885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109899)

I don't know why, but I always though of Mars as a planet without an atmosphere.

Uh, did you miss the very recent slashdot article [slashdot.org] ?

Re:Martian atmosphere (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110191)

I thought that as soon as the carbon dioxide gas sublimated, it would be lost to space.

If it were lost, how would it condense again in the next winter?

Re:Martian atmosphere (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25119017)

I just never thought about it Whoopie.

Re:Martian atmosphere (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#25110781)

Maybe now the ending scene in Total Recall makes some more sense?

The ending of Total Recall makes perfect sense. It only causes problems if you insist that the ludicrously over-the-top secret agent action hero scenario was actually real, as opposed to what your man had in fact paid for at the very beginning.

Re:Martian atmosphere (2, Funny)

hawkfish (8978) | more than 5 years ago | (#25111079)

Maybe now the ending scene in Total Recall makes some more sense? I'll have to rewatch it and see...

No, that won't help...

Newsflash, bitches! (0, Flamebait)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108043)

Weather causes weather anomaly! Film at 11!

Still not answered... (5, Funny)

ivandavidoff (969036) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108157)

Is the angle of offset rakish or merely jaunty?

Re:Still not answered... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109065)

Nope. It's dodgy.

It wasn't me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25108275)

It was the one-armed man!

Two mysteries linked by Rossby waves (5, Interesting)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108543)

The important phenomenon at work here is that of Rossby waves [wikipedia.org] . It's interesting that this type of polar standing wave may also be implicated in the famous Saturnian hexagon [sciencemag.org] .

Re:Two mysteries linked by Rossby waves (1)

mentaldrano (674767) | more than 5 years ago | (#25128981)

Here are some pics and analysis [nasa.gov] that don't require $60 / year to read.

Carbondioxide-ice (1)

ZarathustraDK (1291688) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108609)

Coming soon to a 7-11 near you, Carbondioxide-icecream, it doesn't drip, it doesn't make you water-bloated. and it makes you burp like a bastaard.

Re:Carbondioxide-ice (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109171)

I heard that it's sublime!

Sublimes, not sublimates, (1)

Angostura (703910) | more than 5 years ago | (#25108947)

sublimate is a nasty, redundant back-formation.

Sorry, but... but.... actually, I'm not sorry. I'm a pedant.

Re:Sublimes, not sublimates, (1)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109405)

sublimate is a nasty, redundant back-formation.

Unless you're talking psychology.

rj

Re:Sublimes, not sublimates, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25109547)

Or chemistry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury(II)_chloride

Re:Sublimes, not sublimates, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25109801)

If it's good enough for M-W [merriam-webster.com] , it's good enough for me.

Re:Sublimes, not sublimates, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25110669)

Punning is okay, but don't pick on people for using words correctly. See definition 2a at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sublimate

Conk (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109241)

So Mars was conked upside the head and now it's cap is skew? Mars is now probably a little slow too...

Is there enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25109551)

Is there enough water on the moon to mount an assult force of laser-sharks?
Maybe this is the reason behind the recent funding of laser powered weapons.

Why? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109609)

The mystery was that while the winter cap is symmetrical about the south pole, the residual cap was offset, and scientists couldn't figure out why."

You're trying to make us read the fine article, aren't you!

Next TRILLION-DOLLAR question, please... (0, Flamebait)

gsgriffin (1195771) | more than 5 years ago | (#25109739)

Now that we've satisfied the curiousity of a few scientists who had a burning question of why that happened, perhaps we can spend the next trillion dollars figuring out fire. I've always wondered why it flickers like that. Gotta be worth spending at least a few billion on.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25110629)

Mars webcam is in black and white and slightly tilted. Best Myspace Angle ever.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy (3, Informative)

OverZealous.com (721745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25111239)

I don't know if anyone else has read this trilogy, but I'm currently finishing the last book in the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy.

This series follows a group of scientists as they inhabit and eventually terraform (partially) Mars. It's fantastic how accurate this book has been, covering complex topics on the effort to get to Mars, benefits and detriments to the explorers' health, even engineering feats such as how one might build a true space elevator (by anchoring it to a geostationary asteroid).

He specifically discusses and explains the polar-cap phenomenon caused by a massive meteorite strike. He explains and discusses the weather patterns, atmosphere and insolation issues. Recently, every "discovery" made on Mars has felt like a bit of déja vu, because he has written about it — even “predicted” it — in these books.

But what really impresses me is that the first book (containing all of these elements) was written in 1992. 16 years ago!

Check them out if you like complex, deep science fiction. These are on the complexity order of the Dune trilogy, but far more grounded in current technology.

terrible summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25112515)

is it just me or was that the most poorly written summary ever. reading through it, all I was thinking was "what is this mystery they keep referring to?" and then finally, in the very last line they reveal it; leaving me to re-read it now having some idea what they're talking about. shouldn't that have been pretty much the first thing outlined?

We knew this already (2, Informative)

volcanopele (537152) | more than 5 years ago | (#25113265)

Once again, ESA has discovered something we have know about for years now: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v435/n7039/full/nature03561.html [nature.com] First, they discover water ice on Mars... The paper itself is quite interesting actually. I don't understand why the press outreach for ESA needs to come up with claims like "Mars Polar Cap Mystery Solved."

Re:We knew this already (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#25124297)

This proves what the speculated on in that article.
The article has good science in there, and people in the know aren't surprised by the confirmation, but...I don't know how to end this sentence.

Re:We knew this already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25125039)

Most of this stuff was already "known" or at least accepted by most of the scientists involved, but there are always a few wingnuts that have other ideas so it isn't a "fact" until it's proven to some extent.

/. Dishonesty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25113349)

How do 'Soulskill' and 'Matt_dk' manage to remove a VERY important rule when copying and pasting from the article?

The article CLEARLY says:

Scientists are now able to better explain...

They don't claim to have solved the 'mystery'. They have a theory - which may eventually be sufficient to explain what's being observed. But to leave that one word out? That had to have been intentionally removed?

/. is continuing to prove itself a farce looking for opportunities to mislead for the sake of evoking a reaction.

Enough. This site has pasted its prime.

X-COM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25116881)

Not a single X-COM reference. That's mean.

Plausible solution to "Global Warming"? (1)

greysunrise (1261960) | more than 5 years ago | (#25117851)

All we need is a 2300km diameter hole that is 7km deep just like the Martians, it seems as if they've got their act together. I for one would like to start with France, unfortunately they are too small, Australia anyone?

Duct Tape (1)

TheCybernator (996224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25117957)

Why not use duct tape to keep Polar Cap in place?
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