Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Extraordinary thing of the day

I want to say, in the manner of Rolf Harris: can you guess what it is yet?

I certainly could not.

It is: Mars.

Here is what the NASA website has to say about this glorious picture:

'Part of Mars is defrosting. Around the South Pole of Mars, toward the end of every Martian summer, the warm weather causes a section of the vast carbon-dioxide ice cap to evaporate. Pits begin to appear and expand where the carbon dioxide dry ice sublimates directly into gas. These ice sheet pits may appear to be lined with gold, but the precise composition of the dust that highlights the pit walls actually remains unknown. The camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the above image in late July.

In the next few months, as Mars continues its journey around the sun, colder seasons will prevail, and the thin air will turn chilly enough not only to stop the defrosting, but once again freeze out more layers of solid carbon dioxide.'

I've been thinking lately about finding beauty in unexpected places. One of the very last places I would have ever expected was the red planet, which I conceived of as a hellish miasma of gas and dust and death. Instead, there is this cool, restrained loveliness. I feel there is some kind of parable in there somewhere, although I'm not quite sure what it is.

Found via the always interesting Minnesotastan.

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