There were tornadoes on Mars and they were powerful

There were tornadoes on Mars and they were powerful

When you think about tornadoes, you may not think about the red planet instantly. Nevertheless, tornadoes appeared on the surface of Mars a long time ago.

When an object is smashed on the surface of a planet, material such as rock and smaller particles will be ejected. This is called the ejecta.

Geologist Peter Schultz and Stephanie Quintana of the Brown University found an impact crater on Mars, strikingly the stripes on the surface reached a remarkably far distance. Ejecta can not reach that far.

What is it?

Based on computer models and experiments in the laboratory, the researchers conclude that the stripes are formed by tornado-like storms on the surface of the red planet. Such a tornado occurred immediately after the impact and raced at a speed of 800 kilometers per hour across the surface of Mars. That’s extremely fast.

The heaviest tornadoes on Earth have a power of F5 on the scale of Fujita, which corresponds to wind speeds of 419 to 512 kilometers per hour.

The stripes on the Martian surface are only visible at night in infrared light.

“This tells us something about the origin of the tracks,” said Schultz.

Hale streaks composite
Wind streaks
An infrared image reveals strange bright streaks extending from Santa Fe crater on Mars. 
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.

But how is such a tornado exactly shaped?

When an object hits on a planet like Mars, a lot of material from the planetoid evaporates during the impact. Also material on the surface of Mars evaporates.

According to Schultz, this results in a kind of Steam plume, which leaves the place of impact at supersonic speed.

The tornado then shreds the surface, leaving the underlying surface exposed. This results in the stripes that are clearly visible in infrared light.

Following this research, Schultz and Quintana wrote a study. This study is available this month in the scientific journal Icarus.

SOURCEBrown University