Picture of the Day: Frozen Deposit of Dry Ice at Mars's South Pole

More

537489main_pia13986-43_946-710.jpg

Found buried deep underneath the south pole of Mars, a frozen deposit of dry ice contains nearly 30 times more carbon dioxide than scientists previously though to be buried in the area. This color-coded thickness map estimates the size of the deposits -- that large red circle near the middle is the fairly recent dry ice discovery -- based on observations made by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARED) instrument attached to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"Red corresponds to about 600 meters or yards thick; yellow to about 400; dark blue to less than 100, tapering to zero," NASA explained. "The background map, in muted colors, represents different geological materials near the southA Fr pole." The amount of carbon dioxide stored in this space changed dramatically as the planet's axis tilts in various directions. Scientists suspect that when the tilt of Mars' axis increases, much of the carbon dioxide stored near the south pole escapes into the planet's atmosphere, causing its mass to increase.

"The newly found deposit has a volume similar to Lake Superior's nearly 3,000 cubic miles (about 12,000 cubic kilometers)," according to NASA. "The deposit holds up to 80 percent as much carbon dioxide as today's Martian atmosphere. Collapse pits caused by dry ice sublimation and other clues suggest the deposit is in a dissipating phase, adding gas to the atmosphere each year. Mars' atmosphere is about 95 percent carbon dioxide, in contrast to Earth's much thicker atmosphere, which is less than .04 percent carbon dioxide."

View more Pictures of the Day.

Image: NASA.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

A Technicolor Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In