Angel, devil and blood-red heart appear at Martian south pole

Angel, devil and blood-red heart appear at Martian south pole

It’s summer at the south pole of Mars, and the angels and devils are coming out to play. You can see them both in a stunning new image of the recently thawed pole, taken by the European Space Agency (ESA).

The devils, it should be said, are made of dust. Just like on Earth, Martian dust devils form when a pocket of warm air suddenly rises through a column of cool air, creating a spinning updraft. (Unlike on Earth, these dusty cyclones can tower 6 miles, or 10 kilometers, high). You can see the scratchy-scratchy tracks of one such cyclone in the dark region to the far left of this image.

And as for the angel? For an explanation, we’ll have to turn to the heavens. Take a close look at the “halo” around the angel’s head, and you’ll notice the steep, sloping walls of an impact crater. According to a statement from the ESA, this ethereal feature is the product of a meteorite collision that dug deep into the Red Planet’s crust, building a crater and revealing the layers of ancient sediment below.

In this topographic map, blue and purple regions show low altitudes while red, yellow and white regions show higher altitudes. Note the deep crater around the angel’s head. (Image credit: ESA)

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