Mystery cloud spotted on Mars by amateur astronomer

Here’s something fascinating and puzzling, maybe WUWT readers can help figure this one out. There’s also a neat flipbook animation below the read more line.

Wayne Jaeschke writes:

Here’s a stumper for any Mars experts. While processing my Mars images from last night, I found a strange feature over Acidalia (top right of the animation below). I made this 5-frame animation of the green-light images. The feature appears in all the channels, but is most visible in blue and green and least visible in IR. Also, it moves with the planet (ruling out dust motes on the sensor) and seems to rise over the limb. Fog rolled in after this, so there is no additional data later than this. If anyone caught Mars after 2:15UT last night, please check your images… particularly after 2:51UT.

Update Note:  for those of you Mars geographers, the most appropriate geographic location to cite for where the feature resides is Terra Cimmerium.  Acidalia was where I thought it was at first glance, but the measured location is 190 degrees by 43 degrees (South) placing over Terra Cimmerium.


My thought is some sort of volcanic eruption, as that would be the only thing I could think of that would make an elongated plume that high…but this seems to be even too high for that, but then again Mars has the tallest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, at 22 km (14 mi) high. If it were volcanic, it would be a first. According to Wikipedia: [Astronomers] have never recorded an active volcano eruption on the surface of Mars; however, the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter photographed lava flows that must have occurred within the past two million years, suggesting a relatively recent geologic activity.

Barring that, maybe some sort of gravity induced comet disintegration?


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asteroid impact debris?

Its not a jet of green gas coming from the surface of Mars is it? If so, watch out for giant cylinders landing in a few months.

Adam Gallon

Terra Cimmeria, to be exact!

Chris B

A tunguska-like meteor explosion?

Pull My Finger

Imperial Walkers on the move.

Obviously Mi-Go.

Willam Abbott

no asteroid – a small comet, the same source of the nacreous clouds on earth.
This is the most neglected astronomical discovery. Ever. Anthony had to shut the last thread down – it got metaphysical. All the planets are orbiting the sun in a flux of small comets. They constantly bombard the earth. Louis Frank’s work at the University of Iowa has never been refuted.

Jason H

Is that too far in latitude to be the Tharsis region? There are a few enormous volcanoes there, and can an eruption reach that kind of height even with a thinner atmosphere and lower gravity?


There is no room for any 3 legged creatures on the planet anymore because their places have been taken already by creatures with three rotating arms.

That will be a puff of imaginary “greenhouse gas” from the Sky Dragon.
They have global warming on Mars too, you know….


It seems to be in the part of the planet that is still into the night. So it could be a mountain that gets lighted before the rest of the land.

Is it an impact? It looks large.
The atmosphere on Mars is very thin, so an impact could push up a lot of dust.


Mars’ lower gravity would allow ejecta plumes to go much higher, be they of volcanic or impact in origin. It’s a shame that area wasn’t in view when this event occurred.


Planetary warming, climate change, universal disruption? Beats me but it certainly seems like it’s tailor made for the United Nebula’s Intergalactic Panel of Concerned Catastrophists.


Are any of the Mars orbiters still operational?
If so, how long would it take to arrange a new picture of that region?


Has to be carbon dioxide … 😉
Wikipedia mentions cirrus clouds made of ice (and in th Swedish version even carbon dioxide …)

Those 3 armed things that catch fire – heat ray malfunction?


I think it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger turning on the Alien O2 generator on Mars..
Has anyone spotted Arnold lately? See what I mean?
Total Recall


Obviously this is a large cloud of Martian Locusts on their first foraging flight after a long Martian Winter. I am certain John Carter will take care of them as they are considered a delicacy at the Princesses table.

An impact plume maybe? The images are good enough give us a good idea where to look in Hi Res satellite image data for a new impact crater, or other accosiated planetary scarring.

Commander Bill

I passed it on to NASA Mar’s Reconnaissance Oribiter folks. They have some hardware in orbit around Mars now that ought to be able to get a better view of this event.


The green looks Aurora-ish. Or is Mars too far from the sun to be affected by that?


A volcano eruption would most likely show a symmetrical umbrella, like on Titan (sort of) but this does not seem to be umbrella shaped. It looks more like meteor impact with ejecta. We know that some impacts have thrown in space Martian surface material before, maybe this is one of those cases. It would be interesting to have pictures of that area in the next few days.

mark wagner

temperature inversion in the atmosphere altering the refraction of the limb.

It is a ball of “missing heat”


Two sources think it’s a high altitude cloud:
Of course, most of you here would scoff at anything Phil Plait (The Bad Astronomer) would say. But he is a professional astronomer, though again that probably doesn’t help as you all think scientists such as him are corrupt (yes, he advocates AGW).
To fully understand the phenomenon, if it turns out to be a high altitude cloud, scientists will need to use atmospheric models. But here again most of you reading this site won’t believe the conclusions since I’ve seen many claims here that either such models aren’t science or that the models are all flawed. (yes, atmospheric scientists use similar models for Earth and Mars, and the other planets).
If you hold such positions, then I’m afraid you’ll never know what these clouds are. Bummer.

John W.

Could be a blizzard. Has Al Gore made any remarks about Mars recently?

Rob Potter

Like polistra (8.35) my first thought was Aurora since I didn’t think anything from the surface (dust etc.) would reach that high. But it would be a very big Aurora as well – does Mars have a strong magnetic field?

With a bit of enhancement I got this:

Here’s one Anthony and his clogging word filters will love: It’s a dense spiral chemtrail caused by a UFO crashing and waking the Martian second cousin of C’thulu…it’s 2012, after all…and the relatively low altitude of the cloud is best explained by the effects of rogue HAARP waves from Area 51 caused by an amplification effect of our Hollow Earth. Someone let me know when this post appears sometime next month, please.
But seriously, I vote for a volcanic erruption, similar to an event reported around this time of the year, in April of 2010: …Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter photographing the Martian surface noticed an odd plume near the summit of Pavonis Mons. The initial guess was that this plume might have been fog or an new impact on the Martian surface, but the continued presence of the plume might suggest that it is not a transient feature. One suggestion is that these could be a volcanic plume. (See more info and image at
But for a truly spectacularand full-colour image of the 2010 erruption, in all of its reddish glory, see her:
[REPLY: Yes, we needed the jaws of life to get that one out of the spam filter. -REP]

Patrick Davis

Easy! It’s CO2 wot dunnit! Add to the list of what CO2 does;
Bulges on other worlds.
All we need do now if find summat odd in another galaxy to claim it was CO2 wot dunnit!


Hopefully orbiters will focus on that region as soon as they can. In addition to an impact plume or volcanic activity, This is at the latitude where where there is surface ice in polygonal ground, so perhaps also some sort of thermal plume caused by melting? It appears to be at a similar elevation to the dust or dry ice clouds on the limb.

Ok, a really, really serious hypothesis now, while the WUWT Pseudoscientific Hoaxes Forensics Department staffers analyze my previous post.
I think it’s a hoax: Photoshop > color sampler > shape > fill > gaussian blur > specle > blur. It’s a build-up to a photoshopped image of a rocket launch which will appear on April 1st.


Nobody has mentioned Dr. Manhattan yet. Could it be his glass fortress of solitude? Or… a could, yes definitely a cloud.

I suggest (water or CO2) ice ‘meteorite’ evaporating in the thin martian atmosphere.

Alan the Brit

My tuppence ha’penny worth. In the image it does indeed move with the planet’s rotation. To me though, it appeared to be thin in profile, then as the rotation occurs is spreads out. It could be ejecta from either volcano or impact that has reached its limiting altitude & flattens as cooling takes place. Just a thought but I am only a humble engineer. It would be interesting to view other images to see if it spreads a tail as rotation continues & high altitude winds drag it around the planet.


It’s one of them there annual races …

LOL: Yes, we needed the jaws of life to get that one out of the spam filter –REP
The second link is not resolving now, for some reason. It’s an image of an orange tabby laughing her head off, with the caption “April Fools!” The article on the April 1 erruption/asteroid was a April Fool’s joke by Eric Klemetti at, cited above. Given the current date, I’m still thinking this is a more elaborate version of the same spoof, one which will get truly rificulous on the 1st.

I didn’t know that Mars had a magnetic field to produce a Aurora .
Q to Rob Potter

Christoph Dollis

Alien cloaking device, obviously.

Brian H

MikeH says:
March 28, 2012 at 8:28 am
I think it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger turning on the Alien O2 generator on Mars..
Has anyone spotted Arnold lately? See what I mean?
Total Recall

Yes, unfortunately.


The Martian face sneezed.

Ok, the reason I’m such a Doubting Thomas is because I was bamboozled by an anthro prof when he handed us a monograph on a rarely studied culture, the Nacirema and assigned a 2 page essay for a small bonus mark. It described obsessions with dental hygene, special ablution rooms in every house, healing temples with white-clad priests and priestesses and such.
I wrote a 4-page essay (due on April 1st) describing the culture’s uncanny similarity to our North American one, the resemblance to our brushing and flossing, hospitals with white-clad physicians and nurses, etc. I speculated about a cargo cult-like cultural transfer where some Nacirema inhabitants had travelled to the West, returned to tell tales of wonder and their stories became embedded in the culture’s mythology and rituals. Of course, almost everyone in the class got it right away…by reversing the name, Nacirema to “American”… and didn’t hand anything in.
I got a nice mark, though, beause I came really, really close and actually worked my butt off. Apparently the author of the monograph had submitted the spoof to an Anthropological society and none of the experts got it!


Rob Potter says:
March 28, 2012 at 8:42 am
Mars has virtually no magnetic field.

Brian H

MarkW says:
March 28, 2012 at 8:22 am
Are any of the Mars orbiters still operational?
If so, how long would it take to arrange a new picture of that region?
Steve says:
March 28, 2012 at 8:54 am
Hopefully orbiters will focus on that region as soon as they can. notes, “NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft will try to image the cloud with a camera that can take pictures in visible and infrared light simultaneously.”

David Ross

“…a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet…”
War of the Worlds
There was a coronal mass ejection on or about the 8th -aurora Cimmerium? But any effects from that should be long gone. Storm feature?
Somebody should make a movie where the aliens come to steal our CO2 instead of our water.

Jim G

My bet is on an impact of some type since we know these occur. But then since just about everything theorized about the planets has been proven wrong by closer inspection, maybe volcanic activity. I am very envious though as none of my photos of mars ever show anything that interesting but then they are not as good as these either.

David Ross

Quick, somebody call Greenpeace. The French are testing their nukes on Mars.
Actually, detonating a nuke on our moon could throw a veil of dust around earth. Instant global cooling (and probably ice age). Add the list of geo-engineering nightmares.

cui bono

It’s Disney sending any surviving prints of ‘John Carter’ back to Barsoom.