NASA's Mars rover Curiosity is enjoying some nice, warm weather on the Red Planet — and spring hasn't even come to its landing site yet.
Curiosity's onboard weather station, which is called the Remote Environment Monitoring Station (REMS), has measured air temperatures as high as 43 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius) in the afternoon. And temperatures have climbed above freezing during more than half of the Martian days, or sols, since REMS was turned on, scientists said.
These measurements are a bit unexpected, since it's still late winter at Gale Crater, the spot 4.5 degrees south of the Martian equator where Curiosity touched down on Aug. 5.
"That we are seeing temperatures this warm already during the day is a surprise and very interesting," Felipe Gómez, of the Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid, said in a statement.
Curiosity's main goal is to determine if the Gale area is, or ever was, capable of supporting microbial life. Most researchers think present-day Mars is too dry and cold to host life as we know it, but they may have to rethink some of their assumptions if temperatures climb considerably through the spring and summer.
"If this warm trend carries on into summer, we might even be able to foresee temperatures in the 20s [Celsius], and that would be really exciting from a habitability point of view."