The following is an excerpt from Ashley Strickland | August 23, 2017 | CNN.com |
(CNN)Can you imagine how beautiful it might be to witness snow falling on the rust-colored surface of Mars or a steady rain of glittering diamonds on blue Neptune?
No, these aren't images from Prince or David Bowie's lyric journals or scenes from some galactic version of "Game of Thrones." Rather, two studies published this week suggest what weather might be like on Mars, Neptune and Uranus.
Martian snow by night
The Phoenix Mars Lander detected snowfall on the Red Planet in 2009 using a laser instrument to observe how the atmosphere and surface interact. But the other rovers and landers that we've sent to Mars haven't been equipped with this tool.
Aymeric Spiga, a researcher at the Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique in Paris, wanted to take those observations from the Phoenix Lander and apply his expertise in numerical modeling of planetary atmospheres to reveal more about this weather we can't see.
"I like to unveil the physics which underlie the behavior of clouds and weather in extraterrestrial planets," Spiga wrote in an email. "I feel like an extraterrestrial weather forecaster."
Why, and how, did snow fall on Mars? And why wasn't there more evidence for it?
During the Martian day, cloud particles absorb visible light to warm the atmosphere. But at night, in areas where the conditions are just right for water-ice clouds to form, it can lead to icy precipitation.
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