Space

Mars rover films magnificent Martian clouds soaring over the red desert

Shadows cast on the extraterrestrial ground.
By Mark Kaufman  on 
clouds on Mars
High clouds passing over the Mars Curiosity rover Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / York University

NASA spotted Martian clouds that look awfully Earth-like.

The space agency recently posted atmospheric footage that the Curiosity rover captured late last year. This car-sized robot landed on Mars almost a decade ago and is exploring the planet's more than 3-billion-year-old Gale Crater.

  • In the first GIF below, we can see clouds passing directly above the rover, explained NASA. The clouds are almost 50 miles high, and likely composed of carbon dioxide as opposed to water.

  • In the second GIF, the soaring clouds cast shadows on the dry Martian desert.

Via Giphy

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / York University

Via Giphy

Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / York University

Compared to Earth, the Martian atmosphere is quite thin. Its volume is about 1 percent of Earth's and largely composed of carbon dioxide, making it a profoundly inhospitable place for any potential human visitors.

Mars' atmosphere, though it can still support fascinating extraterrestrial clouds today, wasn't always so thin. Over billions of years, its atmosphere diminished, but planetary scientists suspect the atmosphere was once thick enough to sustain a warm world — with flowing water.


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