Sunday, March 25, 2012

Unknown cloud on Mars

I recall the beginning of Orson Welles' radio adaptation of The War of the Worlds.

Astronomers began noticing tufts of cloud rise up over the surface of the planet Mars.  The observances were written off as smoke from volcanic activity.  Foolish astronomers!  It was really the Martians launching their "cylinders" at us.

Now, a cloud really has been seen over Mars and no one's quite sure of its nature or origin.  Through various earthbound methods and via the Mars Odyssey orbiter, astronomers have so far postulated a small list of theories.  One possibility is that it's a cloud of water vapor.  Other sources in the running include a sizable weather system, dust and debris from a meteor hit, and...from the tellurian "oldie but a goodie" department...a trick of optics.

Whatever it is the phenomenon seems to be subsiding.  Wayne Jaeschke, the amateur astronomer who first discovered the formation, has noticed the cloud diminishing in size over the past few days.

What do I think it is?  Could be any of the above mentioned theories.  Without more data it's impossible to tell.  Thankfully, the Odyssey is investigating the matter and with any luck we'll know more.  If pressed, I would vote for "meteor hit" right now.

It's just great that Mars holds so much mystery.


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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Dr. Rich said: "I read the original "war of the worlds". The story was far better than any of the movie remakes I've seen - or that short-lived sequel series on Fox."

    To which I replied: The radio play was genius in its own right. The George Pal film production was good and the series was hokey but had good concepts. Don't even get me started on that Spielberg turd.

    We'll all stop laughing when it starts raining cylinders.


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