MARTIAN FLARES AND THEIR POSSIBLE CAUSES

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MARTIAN FLARES - ASTEROID IMPACTS, VOLCANOES, OR ICE?

     What could power dust storm winds up to 300 miles per hour?  Although dust storms on Mars typically move at 33 to 66 miles per hour, perhaps the higher end 300 mile per hour storms are driven by an asteroid impact. A friend of our family and former (controversial) NASA employee, Clark McClelland claimed to witness a flash on Mars, via the 13 inch Fitz-Clark refractor telescope at the Allegheny Observatory back in 1954.  He also sent us an article about Tsuneo Saheki of  the Osaka Planetarium who was viewing a 5.3 inch disc of Mars through an 8 inch Newtonian telescope at 400 power.  Saheki claimed to see a a very small, extremely bright spot appear at 2100 Universal time on December 8, 1951.  While Clark thought he was witnessing a volcanic eruption in 1954, such an event would probably not be bright enough to see through a telescope, but an impact would be - if the impact were on the side of Mars facing the Earth.  If it were on the side facing away from Earth, then the incident would appear unexplained unless we had an orbiter at the right time and place.

     Clark disputes the asteroid theory with a copy of a May 2001 Sky & Telescope article which cites him on pages 116 and 118.  It shows that the flare he observed at the Edom Promontorium on Mars on July 24, 1954 was also seen at the same spot on Mars by Saheki 23 days earlier on July 1, 1954 and seen again there by Ichiro Tasaka on November 21, 1958.  This would indicate a greater chance for a volcano there, but Tasaka also saw flares at the same night and at the same time in 1958 at Northern Hellas, which could be taken as evidence for an asteroid impact on Mars (Universal Times for the November 21, 1958 impacts at both Edom Promontorium and Northern Hellas were at 13:35 and 13:50).  Either event, an asteroid impact or a huge volcanic eruption could account for the Martian dust storms, but winds of 300 miles per hour would still seem to require a greater atmospheric pressure than advertised to transmit the energy around the planet.

     Thomas A. Dobbins wrote in Sky & Telescope on March 4, 2004, that June 2001 observations support the idea that, “The flares came from sunlight glinting off patches of frost or ice on the Martian surface.” He states that “because the flashes occurred before Edom crossed the center of the planet's disk, the reflectors must have been tilted as much as 19° east-west; perhaps they rested on inclined surfaces on the ground, for example, the slopes of dunes. Intriguingly, the light-colored oval of Edom Promontorium corresponds to the large, flat crater Schiaparelli, and in May 2002 NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft found indications that this region is anomalously rich in water ice for a site near the Martian equator.”  Of course, water can also reflect light, but the presence of liquid water can only occur over a sustained set of observations if the surface pressure is higher than NASA admits.  Water would not stay tilted at the angle just indicated.  However, if reflections off ice cause these flares, we are left without a related explanation for 300 mph winds. Note: Mars is geologically dead, so I tend to doubt that volcanoes could cause the flares.  Mostly likely asteroid impacts are the culprits.