Weird weather

Look: NASA just released new footage of dry ice clouds floating over Mars

Incredible.

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We’re used to cloudy weather on Earth.

Sometimes we’re braving the rain, and other times we’re lying on the grass watching fluffy strands of white float across the sky.

But cloudy days on Mars are rare.

The planet’s thin, dry atmosphere makes it tough for frozen moisture to accumulate as it does on Earth.

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In the winter on Mars, water ice crystals form into clouds that hang near the planet’s equator about 37 miles above the ground.

NASA via Giphy

But in 2021, researchers operating NASA’s Curiosity rover noticed wispy clouds forming at higher altitudes — about 50 miles — into the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

These puffs form only in extremely cold temperatures, and researchers think they’re made of frozen carbon dioxide rather than water.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

You might recognize frozen CO2 by its colloquial name: Dry ice.

The upper atmosphere of Mars is so cold that it turns carbon dioxide into clouds of dry ice. Pretty metal.

Portland Press Herald/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images

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On February 15, NASA released two new views of dry ice clouds rolling over Mars.

Curiosity captured the images last December.

Here are two views of the Martian clouds:

Luca Mason / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

The clouds cast dramatic shadows over the Martian landscape.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

Curiosity looks upward to see the clouds passing directly overhead.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/York University

NASA via Giphy

The high-altitude clouds are tough to spot in the atmosphere because they’re so faint.

Curiosity had to capture several images of the clouds against a static background that was later removed to see the clouds’ full motions.

Keeping an eye on the clouds can help researchers better understand Mars weather, and the weird wonders of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.