Cloud Mars Arsia Mons Volcano
Photo credit: ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao
A bizarre thin elongated cloud has recently appeared over the 12.4-mile high Arsia Mons volcano on Mars. It’s made up of water ice, and while it may look like a smoke plume linked to volcanic activity, its airflow is directly influenced by the volcano’s ‘leeward’ slope, or the non wind-facing side. The cloud can reach up to 1118-miles in length, and was photographed between July 17-19 by the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) on Mars Express, which has been studying the Martian surface from orbit for the past 16 years. Read more for another picture and additional information.

Elongated Cloud Arsia Mons Volcano Mars
A sol (martian day) is only slightly longer than an Earth day at 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds long, while a year consists of 668 sols, or approximately 687 days. In the early mornings during the southern solstice, this fleeting cloud grows for around three hours, quickly vanishing again just a few hours later.

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We have been investigating this intriguing phenomenon and were expecting to see such a cloud form around now. This elongated cloud forms every martian year during this season around the southern solstice, and repeats for 80 days or even more, following a rapid daily cycle. However, we don’t know yet if the clouds are always quite this impressive,” said Jorge Hernandez-Bernal, PhD candidate at the University of the Basque Country (Spain) and lead author of the ongoing study.