Astronomers detect odd cloud plumes erupting from the Red Planet

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Feb 17, 2015, 2:42 AM EST (Updated)

Are insidious engines of war coming alive for the inevitable Martian assault on Earth?  Probably not. But scientists are still baffled by strange plumes emanating from the surface of Mars, soaring high up into the atmosphere nearly 150 miles, as reported in this week's issue of the science journal, Nature.

Amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester, Pa., first observed this unusual phenomenon in 2012, detecting flare-like clouds spread out over a 300-600-mile-wide area.  

"I'd never seen anything like that," the avid skygazer stated, sharing the results with colleagues.  The mysterious effect, which has now passed, is a breathtaking cosmic event, causing worldwide planetary scientists and astronomers to declare a barrage of superlatives usually reserved for religious holidays amd online bloggers.

These massive Martian plumes are unlike the typical thin, ice crystal clouds normally seen and compared to regular cirrus cloud formations on Earth.  Todd Clancy, a planetary scientist at the Space Science Institute, is extremely skeptical of the findings, explaining why basic physics indicate that this can't happen, citing the fact that conditions in Mars' atmosphere don't supply the essential ingredients for these sorts of clouds.

Whether these unexplained atmospheric observances are merely thick ice crystal cloud clusters, aurora-like emissions or terrifying tripods powering up for an invasion, it's clear nobody knows for sure what's brewing on the Red Planet, and the debate marches on.  Any interesting theories?

(Via USA Today)