‘Meteoric Smoke’ Could Be Forming Cotton Candy Clouds on Mars

first_img NASA Captures ‘Red-Handed’ Avalanche on Mars in Mesmerizing PhotoBest Skywatching Events in September 2019 Mars is known for its hazy clouds, however, astronomers have had trouble determining what causes them to rise miles above the planet’s surface. Now, a new study suggests that a phenomenon called “meteoric smoke” might be to blame for the dreamy accumulations.According to the study, which was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on June 17, the clouds in the Red Planets’ middle atmosphere could be caused by “meteoric smoke,” which is the icy dust generated by space debris crashing into Mars’ atmosphere, said a University of Colorado Boulder press release. The study’s findings show that planets, such as Mars, and their weather patterns, aren’t too isolated from the solar system that surrounds them.#CUBoulder researchers find clouds on Mars may be the product of meteoric smoke—the icy dust created by space debris slamming into the planet’s atmosphere. @CUArtsSciences @LASPatCU https://t.co/JMfnqkCGSF— CU Boulder News (@CUBoulderNews) June 17, 2019“We’re used to thinking of Earth, Mars, and other bodies as these really self-contained planets that determine their own climates,” Victoria Hartwick, a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences (ATOC) and lead author of the new study, said in the press release. “But, climate isn’t independent of the surrounding solar system.”Hartwick and her team wanted to demonstrate that clouds don’t come out of nowhere. According to Hartwick, clouds need something they can condense onto. But, unlike Earth’s low-lying clouds, Mars’ middle atmosphere is a different case, which was why Hartwick was drawn to another potential cloud-creator: meteors.Every day on average, roughly two or three tons of space debris slam into Mars and as meteors break apart in the Red Planet’s atmosphere, they add a large volume of dust into the air. To explore if this kind of smoke would be a potential cause for Mars’ strange clouds, Hartwick’s team used giant computer simulations that tried to replicate the flows and turbulence of Mars’ atmosphere. When they included these meteors in their calculations, some clouds started to appear.“Our model couldn’t form clouds at these altitudes before,” Hartwick added. “But now, they’re all there, and they seem to be in all the right places.”NASA’s InSight Mars Lander captured clouds hovering above the Red Planet. (Photo Credit: NASA)Hartwick said we won’t expect to see any giant thunder clouds forming above Mars’ surface, since the clouds she and her team studied resembled cotton candy more than puffy marshmallows. Even though they’re not thunderheads, the computer simulations show that these “cotton candy” clouds, also known as middle atmosphere clouds, could affect Mars’ climate. These weird clouds caused temperatures at high altitudes to increase or decrease as much as 18 degrees Fahrenheit during the team’s computer simulations.“More and more climate models are finding that the ancient climate of Mars, when rivers were flowing across its surface and life might have originated, was warmed by high altitude clouds,” Brian Toon, a professor in ATOC, said in the press release. “It is likely that this discovery will become a major part of that idea for warming Mars.”More on Geek.com:NASA’s MRO Discovers ‘Black-And-Blue’ Impact Crater on Mars Watch: NASA Is Building and Testing Its Mars 2020 Rover at JPLNASA Spots ‘Star Trek’ Starfleet Logo ‘Dune Footprints’ on Mars Stay on targetlast_img

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