International Space Station: Why does this formation of ice crystals appear in one of its windows?

For more than 23 years, the International Space Station has been Earth’s most distant watchtower. The astronauts and cosmonauts who live there are responsible for monitoring, with their own eyes, what is happening on our planet.

But there are situations that have no explanation within this space laboratory, which constantly raise questions.

One of them was made public by cosmonaut Sergey Korsakov. One of three Russians on the International Space Station, Korsakov is remembered because, with his companions, he arrived dressed in yellow amid the crisis with Ukraine; and also by the image of “stowaways” captured on a Russian freighter leaving the station.

Now Korsakov has uploaded a new photo. This is a formation of ice crystals in one of the windows of the ISS.

Many wondered about the reason for the formation, why it appeared. Korsakov only released the imageand in Telegram he said the ice crystals “had a long lifespan, they lasted 24 hours, and after they melted the pattern of condensation was maintained.”

On Earth, many have tried to give a scientific answer to crystals.

Some possible explanations for ice formations on the International Space Station

The IFL Science portal consulted NASA, the European Space Agency and the Japanese Space Agency in this regard: no one has clearly explained the situation, since it occurs in the Russian module of the ISS. And in the midst of the Ukrainian conflict, no one contacts Roscosmos, the Russian aerospace agency.

Therefore, there is only speculation.

IFL Science believes that, As the ISS windows are made up of several panels, the inner one being separated by air and the outer ones by vacuum, the ice crystals would be between them.

Or even inside the station.

Other people have suggested that it is the cosmonauts who breathe through the window, but the circular shape of the frost and the internal temperature of the ISS make this almost impossible.

James Lea, a glaciologist at the University of Liverpool, and Tom Whale, an expert on the role of ice nucleation in atmospheric science and cryobiology at the University of Warwick, discussed the matter with IFL Science.

Two scientists give their opinion on the subject

Lea’s response:

“The formation mechanism also acts on all sides, it reaches a threshold to form ice at the edge of the circle, then all the water vapor is exhausted before reaching the middle. The chunks of ice that expand in the middle are ice crystals that are used to help expand; they can’t get out of the circle because it’s too hot.”

For Whale:

“The location of the ice reflects a temperature gradient across the window. The point of contact between the window and the space station shell at the perimeter of the window should be warmer than the center of the pane.”

“If there is a little water vapor in a cavity between the panes, or perhaps relatively humid air leaking from the space station into the cavity, there may be a tendency for ice to form. form at the place of the window Where does it come in from It gets cold enough for ice to form, then it pushes inward from there. The circular shape of the ice may reflect a circular window geometry.”

At some point, there must be an official response from the International Space Station. For now, we are left with these two assertions by Earth scientists.

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