The astronomers studying the Martian atmosphere have been puzzled by mysterious cloud-like plumes that have been witnessed reaching high above the surface of Mars.
The amateur space scientists reported the development of definite plume-like features on the Red planet on two different occasions in March and April 2012.
According to the scientists, the mysterious plumes were spotted rising to altitudes of more than 250km above the same Martian region on both occasions. If go by the comparison, similar features witnessed in the past have not exceeded 100km.
Lead study author Agustin Sanchez-Lavega, of Spain’s Universidad del Pais Vasco, said, “The division between the atmosphere and outer space is very thin, i.e. approximately 250km. Hence, the reported plumes are extremely unexpected.”
The features, which covered an area of roughly 1000 x 500 km, developed in less than 10 hours and remained visible for nearly 10 days. They changed their structure from day-to-day.
The researchers are working hard to gather the data to determine the nature of the plumes and their cause by using the advanced Hubble Space Telescope along with the images taken by amateurs.
Sharing of the reasons behind these plumes, Agustin said, “It may be the features are caused by a reflective cloud of water-ice, dust particles or carbon dioxide-ice, but this would require exceptional deviations from standard atmospheric circulation models to explain formations of cloud at such high altitudes.”
Study co-author Garcia Munoz, a research fellow at ESA’s ESTEC, said, “Another idea is that they are linked to an auroral emission, and indeed auroras have been previously observed at these locations, associated with a known region on the surface where there is a large anomaly in the crustal magnetic field.”
The research paper detailing the findings has been published in the journal Nature.