Curiosity, the new NASA rover that’s been exploring Mars, has been consumed with drilling through rock and studying what can be known about the planet from the ground. But new photos show that some of Curiosity’s greatest finds may come from the sky above Mars.
Curiosity recently discovered clouds passing by the Red Planet, being blown overhead by high winds. Cloud cover, as you know, contains water droplets or ice water crystals, which is why clouds appear before a rainstorm, snowstorm, or tropical storm. Water is a necessary ingredient to create and sustain life, and the presence of clouds alongside of pooling water traces discovered on Mars point to the possibility that life could’ve once existed on the planet.
As for the clouds, studies suggest that the clouds themselves could have had high-altitude winds in the past, leading to warmer temperatures for the clouds and the planet itself. Mars, in that sense, could’ve sustained life, as opposed to a planet like Neptune. “Some studies suggest that clouds in the past may have significantly warmed the planet through a greenhouse effect. A warmer environment is more conducive to life,” said Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) team member and NASA Ames Planetary Scientist Robert M. Haberle.
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The NASA land rover has also uncovered dunefields on Mars, a sign that the wind blows right onto the planet rather often. Dunefields are rock formations created through the constant winds that impact the planet.
Curiosity hasn’t been looking for signs of life, though, if initial exploration proves useful, it’s likely that the six-wheeled rover will conduct its new investigation right away. Mars may tell us that conditions are ripe for life on the planet (and may show nothing new at all), but scientists will never know unless they explore.