Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Clouds riding high on Mars

The European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express spacecraft has discovered the highest clouds yet detected above the surface of a planet. The Earth has clouds that top out at about 52 miles, but clouds on Mars reach up to 62 miles. (100 kilometers) The clouds on Mars are thought to be made of Carbon Dioxide. There are no pictures available as the detection was made by the means of ultraviolet and infrared instruments on the orbiter. The orbiter looked at stars just before they were eclipsed by Mars and saw them dim, the telltale sign of clouds in the atmosphere. Says Franck Montmessin, a French researcher on the camera team, "If you wanted to see these clouds from the surface of Mars, you would probably have to wait until after sunset."