Fog, feathers, and other types of Red-Planet clouds receive crowdsourcing treatment.
You can help NASA scientists to do cloud spotting on Mars for free using the Zooniverse platform. Sign up for a project here at Zooniverse (opens in a new tab). The project, called Cloudspotting on Mars, will invite people to look at 16 years of photographs collected by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been operating on the Red Planet since 2006.
“This information can help researchers to understand why the planet’s atmosphere is as much as 1% as Earth’s, even though sufficient evidence indicates that the planet was once extremely volatile,” wrote officials at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. A statement was released Tuesday (June 28).
In the MRO infrared images captured by the Mars Climate Sounder tool, the clouds appear as arches. But until now, scientists have had to study the pictures themselves in search of these features.
“The team needs help to filter that data at Zooniverse, marking arches so that scientists can study what is happening in space,” wrote JPL officials.
Although Earth and Mars share similar clouds (both planets have clouds rich in ice in water), Red Planet has clouds composed of carbon dioxide or dry ice. Exploring shadows of all kinds will help scientists plan the formation of the center of Mars, about 50 to 50 miles [50 to 80 km] above the planet.
“We want to learn what causes cloud formation – especially water clouds, which can teach us how evaporation occurs in the atmosphere – and what seasons it is,” Marek Slipski, a JPL postdoctoral researcher, said in a statement.
The project could also embark on long-term climate studies to better learn why Mars lost its atmosphere, which may have been due to space erosion over time.