NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured these clouds just after sunset on March 19, 2021, the 3,063rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission. The image is made up of 21 individual images stitched together and color corrected so that the scene appears as it would to the human eye. The clouds are drifting over “Mont Mercou,” a cliff face that Curiosity studied.

Curiosity Spots Clouds Over Mont Mercou: NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover captured these clouds simply after sundown on March 19, 2021, the three,063rd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s mission. The picture is made up of 21 particular person pictures stitched collectively and coloration corrected in order that the scene seems as it could to the human eye. The clouds are drifting over “Mont Mercou,” a cliff face that Curiosity studied. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS. Obtain picture ›

By figuring out clouds in knowledge collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the general public can enhance scientists’ understanding of the Purple Planet’s ambiance.

NASA scientists hope to unravel a elementary thriller about Mars’ ambiance, and you’ll assist. They’ve organized a undertaking known as Cloudspotting on Mars that invitations the general public to determine Martian clouds utilizing the citizen science platform Zooniverse. The knowledge might assist researchers determine why the planet’s ambiance is simply 1% as dense as Earth’s regardless that ample proof suggests the planet used to have a a lot thicker ambiance.

The air strain is so low that liquid water merely vaporizes from the planet’s floor into the ambiance. However billions of years in the past, lakes and rivers lined Mars, suggesting the ambiance should have been thicker then.

How did Mars lose its ambiance over time? One concept suggests completely different mechanisms might be lofting water excessive into the ambiance, the place photo voltaic radiation breaks these water molecules down into hydrogen and oxygen (water is manufactured from two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom). Hydrogen is mild sufficient that it might then drift off into house.

Like Earth, Mars has clouds manufactured from water ice. However not like Earth, it additionally has clouds manufactured from carbon dioxide (assume: dry ice), which type when it will get chilly sufficient for the Martian ambiance to freeze domestically. By understanding the place and the way these clouds seem, scientists hope to higher perceive the construction of Mars’ center ambiance, which is about 30 to 50 miles (50 to 80 kilometers) in altitude.

“We wish to study what triggers the formation of clouds – particularly water ice clouds, which might train us how excessive water vapor will get within the ambiance – and through which seasons,” stated Marek Slipski, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Arches Over Mars

Arches Over Mars: Cloudspotting on Mars asks members of the general public to search for arches resembling this one in knowledge collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Obtain picture ›

That’s the place Cloudspotting on Mars is available in. The undertaking revolves round a 16-year report of knowledge from the company’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been finding out the Purple Planet since 2006. The spacecraft’s Mars Local weather Sounder instrument research the ambiance in infrared mild, which is invisible to the human eye. In measurements taken by the instrument as MRO orbits Mars, clouds seem as arches. The group wants assist sifting via that knowledge on Zooniverse, marking the arches in order that the scientists can extra effectively examine the place within the ambiance they happen.

“We now have over 16 years of knowledge for us to go looking via, which may be very precious – it lets us see how temperatures and clouds change over completely different seasons and from yr to yr,” stated Armin Kleinboehl, Mars Local weather Sounder’s deputy principal investigator at JPL. “But it surely’s a number of knowledge for a small group to look via.”

Whereas scientists have experimented with algorithms to determine the arches in Mars Local weather Sounder knowledge, it’s a lot simpler for people to identify them by eye. However Kleinboehl stated the Cloudspotting undertaking might also assist prepare higher algorithms that might do that work sooner or later. As well as, the undertaking contains occasional webinars wherein contributors can hear from scientists about how the information might be used.

Cloudspotting on Mars is the primary planetary science undertaking to be funded by NASA’s Citizen Science Seed Funding program. The undertaking is performed in collaboration with the Worldwide Institute for Astronautical Sciences. For extra NASA citizen science alternatives, go to

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, leads the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter mission – in addition to the Mars Local weather Sounder instrument – for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Information Media Contacts

Andrew Good

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


[email protected]

Karen Fox / Alana Johnson

NASA Headquarters, Washington

301-286-6284 / 202-358-1501

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