NASA Curiosity Rover Sends Back Images of Iridescent Clouds on Mars

Cloud sightings are rare due to the thin, dry atmosphere.

Tech
9,863 Hypes 5 Comments

NASA‘s Curiosity Rover has captured stunning images of the rare, shimmering clouds that exist on Mars.

The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a press release on Friday that clouds are rare on the Red Planet due to its thin, dry atmosphere. Clouds can typically be found at the planet’s equator during the coldest parts of a Martian year when Mars is farthest from the sun.

Two Earth years ago (equal to one full Martian year), scientists studying the clouds on Mars noticed them forming over NASA’s Curiosity Rover earlier than expected, encouraging them to document these “early” clouds from the moment they began to appear in late January.

“What resulted are images of wispy puffs filled with ice crystals that scattered light from the setting sun, some of them shimmering with color,” the lab wrote.

Curiosity’s team not only now better understands how clouds are formed on Mars and why these clouds looked different, but they have also discovered that early-arrival clouds are higher in altitude than the others. While most Martian clouds hover no more than about 37 miles (60 kilometers) in the sky and are made of frozen water, these dazzling clouds photographed by the Curiosity Rover sit at a higher altitude, where it is much colder. This likely means that the higher clouds are made from frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice.

The Curiosity’s panoramic Mast Camera, or Mastcam, captured the clouds just after sunset, showing ice crystals that were able to catch the fading light and appeared to shine against the sky.

“These twilight clouds, also known as “noctilucent” (Latin for “night shining”) clouds, grow brighter as they fill with crystals, then darken after the Sun’s position in the sky drops below their altitude,” the laboratory said. “This is just one useful clue scientists use to determine how high they are.”

Other clouds, called “mother of pearl” clouds, appear iridescent or pastel in color because of uniform cloud particles. “That’s usually happening just after the clouds have formed and have all grown at the same rate,” said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

According to NASA, the array of colors would be difficult to see with the naked eye but are able to be picked up by the rover’s high-tech cameras.

“I always marvel at the colors that show up: reds and greens and blues and purples,” Lemmon said. “It’s really cool to see something shining with lots of color on Mars.”

In other celestial news, take a look at photos of the rare “Super Flower Blood Moon” from around the world.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

NASA's Curiosity Rover Takes a Selfie on Mars
Tech

NASA's Curiosity Rover Takes a Selfie on Mars

“I heard ‘plandids’ are all the rage back on Earth.”

Here’s What NASA’s Perseverance Rover's First 100 Days on Mars Looked Like
Tech

Here’s What NASA’s Perseverance Rover's First 100 Days on Mars Looked Like

The car-sized spacecraft has captured over 75,000 images of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Mars Rover Has Successfully Collected Rock Samples for the First Time
Tech

NASA’s Mars Rover Has Successfully Collected Rock Samples for the First Time

The samples will ultimately be brought back to Earth.


NASA Ingenuity Helicopter Captures Photos That Point to History of Water on Mars
Tech

NASA Ingenuity Helicopter Captures Photos That Point to History of Water on Mars

Scientists are considering drilling into the area to learn more.

This Home in Thailand Features a Rock Climbing Wall and Light-Filled Brick Facade
Design

This Home in Thailand Features a Rock Climbing Wall and Light-Filled Brick Facade

Designed to allow for optimal airflow and natural lighting.

Amazon Introduces Tiny ‘Zen’ Booths Where Employees Can Go When They’re Stressed
Tech 

Amazon Introduces Tiny ‘Zen’ Booths Where Employees Can Go When They’re Stressed

Some Twitter users have called the initiative “dystopian.”

New ‘Dexter’ Trailer Shows the Lead Character With a New Name and the Same Lust for Murder
Entertainment

New ‘Dexter’ Trailer Shows the Lead Character With a New Name and the Same Lust for Murder

Nice to meet you, Jim Lindsay.

Business and Crypto: Here Are Our Top Stories of the Week
Tech 

Business and Crypto: Here Are Our Top Stories of the Week

Amazon acquired MGM Studios for $8.45 billion USD and Harambe will be immortalized as an NFT.

Morinaga Is Releasing a "Cup Drink" Version of Its Ramune Candy
Food & Beverage

Morinaga Is Releasing a "Cup Drink" Version of Its Ramune Candy

Last introduced at McDonald’s Japan as a McShake.


Bring a Trailer Lists Pristine and Rare 2003 Porsche 911 GT2
Automotive

Bring a Trailer Lists Pristine and Rare 2003 Porsche 911 GT2

One of just 303 for the U.S. market.

Christie's to Auction Andy Warhol's Patek Philippe Calatrava 570
Watches

Christie's to Auction Andy Warhol's Patek Philippe Calatrava 570

Part of his alleged 300-watch collection.

Take A Look at This Rare '90s Footage of a Tokyo Video Game Arcade
Gaming

Take A Look at This Rare '90s Footage of a Tokyo Video Game Arcade

From the 1992 ‘Game Fantasy’ documentary.

PORTER and Shoyoroll Link for a BJJ-Themed Capsule
Fashion

PORTER and Shoyoroll Link for a BJJ-Themed Capsule

With bags and wallets made in SHOYOROLL’s signature pearl-weave cotton.

SQUARE ENIX Announces 'Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate'
Gaming

SQUARE ENIX Announces 'Dragon Quest XII: The Flames of Fate'

Along with a ‘Dragon Quest III’ HD-2D remake.

More ▾
 
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Adblock Detected.

We charge advertisers instead of our readers. If you enjoy our content, please add us to your adblocker's whitelist. We'd really appreciated it.