The ‘happy face’ grows noticeably on Mars


The “Happy Face” crater near the south pole of the red planet has grown significantly larger over the past decade. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) first recorded the “smiley image” in 2011, using its powerful camera to experiment High Resolution Scientific Imaging (HiRISE) .Researchers compared an image of the crater from October 2011 to an image from December 13, 2020, and reported that it became larger and the growing “smile” actually occurs due to thermal erosion, as carbon dioxide evaporates and reveals more soil. The “nose” on the face also grew from two small points to a large depression. MRO began analyzing Mars shortly after its arrival in 2006. “You can see how it did nine,” said Ross Bayer, a planetary scientist at the Sagan Center at the SETI Institute. Years of this thermal erosion made the “face bigger” mouth. By 2020, the two depressions “grew and merged,” Bayer noted.

“Measuring these changes over the course of the Martian year helps scientists understand and remove the annual precipitation of polar frost. Observing these sites over long periods helps us understand long-term climate trends on the Red Planet,” Bayer said. How much frost has been lost due to thermal erosion, revealing more of the surface and although it evaporates elsewhere on the planet, carbon dioxide ice forms near the poles – and transforms throughout the year with climate change – what makes some “features” They appear. The facial features we see actually represent different heights and different densities of ice at the surface. Bayer explained that the “blobby” features in the polar cap are due to the sun’s deflecting carbon dioxide into these circular patterns.

This means that carbon dioxide moves directly from a solid state to a gaseous state without turning into a liquid, causing further erosion in the soil. Seeing human faces and other familiar images in landscapes and inanimate objects is called pareidolia, which is rare. When it comes to Mars and in late December, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express satellite captured an image of what looked like an angel, complete with a halo and wings, near the south pole of the red planet. The angelic figure was visible due to the pattern and composition of nearby dune fields, rich in dark, rocky minerals such as Pyroxene and olivine. CNET reported last year that MRO revealed an Ed Asner-like impact crater.

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