Mars and the eruption Mount Arsia volcano
That Mars was one among the planets most similar to the Earth is know, that it had seen an impressive volcanic activity too. But for some weeks some pictures have suggested that it could have an eruption going on.
Eruptions and life on Mars
That a volcanic eruption is still ongoing on Mars would be, if ever confirmed, a sensational news that would probably give a turn to the search for life on the Red Planet. In fact, so far, Nasa found only traces of a possible presence of organic life finding traces of complex organic compounds and quantities of methane varying according to the seasons.
But a few weeks ago over the Mount Arsia, a gigantic volcano with a 110-kilometer-long caldera and twice the height of the Everest, a strange cloud formation has been photographed that looks incredibly similar to those that Earth's satellites are able to shoot every time there is a significant volcanic eruption. Btw, in Mars this seems to be a totally different situation.
The NASA and ESA photos of Mount Arsia
The first to be widespread was a picture taken by the Mars Odyssey, a NASA probe orbiting around Mars since October 2001 (it is the oldest operative probe among those engaged in the study of Mars), then was the time of Mars Express, the ESA probe two years younger than the American one, which flew over the Martian volcano, observing the same cloud formation.
Again: is it therefore an eruption in progress, 10 million years after the one that until now was thought to have been the most recent? Although for a terrestrial volcano the hypothesis could be theoretically plausible, for the Martian volcanoes it is not, according to the NASA and the ESA, but let's discover why.
False alarm: they are clouds full of ice
The cloud photographed, in fact, seems to contain a large amount of ice and not dust or other incandescent material as it would be in the case of a real eruption. Basically, the height of the Martian volcanoes and the rarefied Martian atmosphere favors the thickening of cold "air" formations (the atmosphere on Mars is rich in carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon but also presents oxygen and water vapor) which give rise to clouds rich in ice. So no eruption is going on, it is just a cloud formation.
It had already happened in 2015
It is not the first time that happens, by the way, since had already been photographed (and studied) a similar cloud, always above Mount Arsia, in 2015 (is the image on the cover of this article, among other things). The confirmation of a volcanic activity and life on Mars, in short, has yet to arrive and frankly speaking it will be hard to find, if nothing else at least until we will be able to send a human crew to see for themselves.