Mars is full of mysteries and mysteries. No matter how many adventures NASA manages to do on the Red Planet, it seems like new mysteries are always around the next turn. Now, NASA is calling on members of the public to help solve the mystery of Mars, which has left the space agency’s brightest head-scratching for decades.
You Can Help NASA Solve This Mystery of Mars
NASA has recently concluded that it needs to dig deeper to search for signs of ancient life on Mars. But what the Red Planet can tell us doesn’t stop there. There is still a lot we don’t understand about Mars. Mysteries that NASA hopes the public can help solve.
On Tuesday, NASA shared a post asking members of the public to join in on its new Cloudspotting on Mars project. The project is the first planetary science project to be funded using NASA’s Citizen Science Seed Grant Program. And, with the help of people around the world, NASA hopes to solve a Mars mystery that has long puzzled its scientists: What triggers the formation of clouds on Mars?
But how can you help solve this Mars mystery? Well, NASA has brought together 16 years of data collected by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It makes that data readily available to the public on the citizen science platform Zooniverse. Basically, it needs the public to help it filter the data captured by the MRO.
What is NASA looking for?
MRO captures data in the infrared, a spectrum of light that is not visible to the human eye. With the instruments on the MRO and other spacecraft, we can see through that spectrum. NASA wants the public to look for any signs of clouds in the infrared capture that MRO has gathered in the Martian atmosphere. Finding these clouds, which look like arches in MRO data, could help solve this long-standing Mars mystery.
Many believe that Mars was once a habitable planet. That the surface of our now dusty neighbor was once covered with lakes and rivers. NASA’s Curiosity rover has also found rocks that confirm those assumptions. Now, liquid water simply evaporates on the planet’s surface and into the thin atmosphere. But how and when clouds form remains a baffling Martian mystery.
NASA says that two types of clouds form on Mars. The first are clouds of water ice, as we see on Earth. The second type is made of carbon dioxide, like dry ice. They form when the atmosphere becomes so cold that clouds form. The space agency has tinkered with algorithms to find clouds. But, it says that it is easier to trust humans to recognize them by eye.
Hopefully NASA can figure out where and when clouds form. If that can happen, the space agency hopes to better understand the planet’s central atmosphere. On top of that, it could open up important clues to understanding how the Martian atmosphere became so thin in the first place. Overall, it will help NASA solve one of the longest-standing Martian mysteries ever discovered.