Smoky Mars clouds are made from pulverized meteors

Brittany A. Roston - Jun 18, 2019, 4:33 pm CDT
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Smoky Mars clouds are made from pulverized meteors

Scientists may have unraveled the mystery of how clouds form over Mars and it involves obliterated meteors. The study focused on the clouds that form in Mars’ middle atmosphere starting around 18 miles above the planet’s surface. According to the new study, these clouds may be the result of meteors that slammed into the Martian atmosphere, resulting in a dusty, icy mess.

The research comes from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where scientists found that Mars’ middle atmosphere clouds and overall weather patterns don’t exist independently of space. According to the study, which was recently published in Nature Geoscience, the middle atmosphere cloud formations may be ‘meteoric smoke.’

The term is used to describe the icy dust that results from space debris like meteors slamming into the Martian atmosphere. The planet is subjected to between two and three tons of space debris every single day, resulting in pulverized meteors that send large quantities of dust into the air.

The dust functions akin to ‘cloud seeds,’ resulting in the formation of the wispy clouds observed in the Red Planet’s middle atmosphere. The findings are based on computer simulations that resulted in cloud formations when meteors were factored into the calculations.

Unlike clouds on Earth, Mars’ clouds are described as being like ‘cotton candy,’ thin and wispy but capable of impacting the planet’s climate. Based on their simulations, the researchers found the presence of these clouds could cause temperature changes of up to 18F at high altitudes.


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