Ever looked at something, done a double-take, looked again and yes, that is what you saw but your brain told you it could not be? That is exactly what just happened to me when I read the NASA press release which informed me, in no uncertain terms, that it was snowing on Mars. As if that wasn't confusing enough, NASA even has the data to prove it.
So what's going on, exactly? Good question, and the answer according to NASA boffins is that the Phoenix Mars Lander has "detected snow falling from Martian clouds" a statement which, I have to say, simply blows my mind.
The Phoenix Mars Lander used a laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars, to detect the snow from clouds some 2.5 miles above the landing site. The gathered data shows this snow vaporising before it hits the surface.
Unsurprisingly, the lead scientist for the Meteorological Station on Phoenix, Jim Whiteway says "Nothing like this view has ever been seen on Mars, we'll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground."
Meanwhile, Peter Smith the Principal Investigator for the Phoenix Project says of the calcium carbonate and particle of a clay-like substance also found on the planet that "we are making good progress on the big questions we set out for ourselves." Big questions such as is this stuff not that same as the carbonates and clays that form on Earth only when there is liquid water around?
NASA is certainly claiming that the fact it has found carbonate points "toward episodes of interaction with water in the past" which is a start.