If you’re an Earthling who plans on acquiring a Martian citizenship in the sorta kinda near future, bon voyage! Also, you’re going to want to hear the latest news on the Red Planet: A new study shows that “sideways tornadoes” helped shape the surface of Mars, and we’re nerding out.
On the off chance that you, future Mars resident, have been out of the space loop, tornado sightings on Mars aren’t exactly new. Obviously, scientists have kept us well-informed on tornadoes that strike here on Earth, so naturally these Martian twisters have us just as intrigued.
Back in 2012, NASA’s Martian Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured images of a tornado on Mars and enhanced it using video simulation. Needless to say, the photos are pretty incredible.
As Forbes reports, the crater rays aren’t visible during the day but when shown through a nighttime infrared view, they give off the appearance of massive, wide-reaching bright streaks due to the amount of heat they hold.
According to Brown University geologist and the study’s lead author Peter Schultz, the large Martian crater rays that dot the planet’s surface are attributed to these unique tornadoes. Schultz collaborated with graduate student Stephanie Quintana to determine the origin of the streaks.
The findings, published in the journal Icarus, reveal that the pair found that once the surface is struck by an asteroid or other body, powerful vapor plumes rise and travel outward from the impact point at an extremely high speed. When the plumes make contact with a previously raised surface (such as with a pre-existing crater), it produces a “tornadic vortice,” which in turn causes the streaks.
Aside from being completely mind-blowing, the streaks left behind by these Martian tornadoes could help researchers understand more about the planet, including rates of erosion or whether ice was present when an impact occurred. Yes: We’re so addicted to all of this new intel about Mars, and we’re not sorry about it.