NASA Seeking Volunteers to Find Clouds on Mars
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is calling on amateur astronomers to assist in finding clouds in the Martian atmosphere. Towards this end, a project called Cloudspotting on Mars was launched to recruit planetary enthusiasts for spotting clouds on the Red Planet using the citizen science platform Zooniverse, NASA said Tuesday.
In a statement, the space agency said that citizen scientists can help figure out why Mars today only has one percent of Earth’s atmosphere despite strong indications that the planet used to have a much thicker atmosphere. NASA added that its own scientists are at a loss in trying to determine how Mars lost its atmosphere over time.
Marek Slipski, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that scientists want to learn what triggers the formation of clouds, especially water ice clouds, which could reveal how high water vapor gets in the atmosphere and during which seasons.
It was explained that Cloudspotting on Mars recruits the public to sift through 16 years’ worth of data sent back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been taking pictures of the Red Planet. Most of the MRO’s data is now on Zooniverse, but NASA scientists said they need help to study them frame by frame.
Armin Kleinboehl, Mars Climate Sounder’s deputy principal investigator at JPL, said the data involved is too much for his small team to look through. He explained that while his team has experimented with using algorithms to identify the arches in Mars Climate Sounder data, it is still much easier for humans to spot them by eye.
Tags: Cloudspotting on Mars MARS Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter NASA space Zooniverse