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Get Your Head In The (Martian) Clouds — For Science

Cloudy skies above a cliff on Mars.
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.
(Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
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Scientists have plenty of evidence that water once flowed on Mars but they haven't figured out why it all dried up.

Now they're asking the public to help — and the answers may be somewhere in the clouds.

Spotting clouds on the Red Planet is harder than it is here on Earth. Most of them are actually made up of frozen carbon dioxide, but there are also clouds made of water ice.

NASA researchers want to know more about them to understand how Mars lost much of its atmosphere over time.

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To do that, they'll need to sift through 16 years of data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And that's where anyone with an Internet connection can jump in.

“It's fairly easy to recognize these clouds, for a human observer,” said Armin Kleinboehl, one of the scientists leading the project.

All you have to do is check infrared images, which look like glowing voiceprints, and mark any tall arches you see. Those arches are actually the clouds scientists are seeking.

The Cloudspotting on Mars website has a helpful step-by-step tutorialto guide volunteers through the spotting and labeling process.

While it's not the same as watching clouds go by on a sunny day, NASA hopes the project will help solve one of the biggest mysteries in our solar system.

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