Hello there! This is a blog for the Cloudspotting on Mars citizen science project, part of NASA Citizen Science and the Zooniverse. We identify clouds in the atmosphere of Mars by analyzing data from the Mars Climate Sounder instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. And here at the blog, we write about the project. Blog plosts will provide project updates, scientific findings, and personal experiences.

Why we study clouds on Mars

Do you ever find yourself gazing up at the blue sky and the tapestries of clouds passing by–sometimes thin and wispy, other times thick and puffy, often in shapes that you could swear are objects you recognize? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to lie down in your astronaut suit on the surface of Mars and look up at clouds in the Martian sky? While no humans have done so yet, we know that clouds are a regular phenomenon in Mars’s atmosphere. With the help of telescopes, orbiters, and our rovers’ eyes, we’ve been able to spot them for some time. Clouds are an important area of research on Mars (and on Earth, too) because of their feedback on the climate – they can reflect incoming sunlight which has a cooling effect and absorb the planet’s outgoing infrared radiation which has a warming effect. In fact, clouds may have played a crucial role in sustaining a warm atmosphere on early Mars enabling liquid water to flow and carve out channels we see in the geology today. Whereas Earth clouds are made of liquid water, the cold temperatures and low pressures of Mars today (which prevent liquid water) allow water-ice and carbon-dioxide ice clouds to form. The Mars Climate Sounder, an instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, is able to see clouds at very high altitudes (>30 miles) in the Martian atmosphere and our goal is to map them to better understand their composition and how they form. But we need your help!

How to participate

Contact us

Questions or comments about the project? Want to share your experience? Send us an email at cloudspottingonmars@gmail.com).