After over a decade of exploration, NASA’s Curiosity rover has captured sun rays on Mars for the very first time. In a gorgeous image released a few days ago, we can see the so-called crepuscular rays shining through clouds in the sunset.
While sunsets can be seen from Mars, and they’re quite moody, this was the first time sun rays have been so clearly viewed on the Red Planet. And they create a scene that’s way more similar to a sunset here on Earth when we have some clouds in the sky.
[Related reading: NASA’S Curiosity rover captures rare Earth-like clouds on Mars]
Curiosity took the photo on February 2, 2023, the 3,730th Martian day (sol) of the mission as a part of the rover’s newest twilight cloud survey. This survey builds on Curiosity’s 2021 observations of noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds. However, unlike the 2021 cloud survey, the latest one relies more often on the rover’s color Mast Camera, or Mastcam. The previous one used relied more on Curiosity’s black-and-white navigation cameras.
NASA explains that clouds in this image are made of carbon dioxide ice, a.k.a dry ice. And how can we know that? “While most Martian clouds hover no more than 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the ground and are composed of water ice, the clouds in the latest images appear to be at a higher altitude, where it’s especially cold,” NASA explains. This is how scientists can conclude what clouds are composed of.
In addition to the image of sun rays, Curiosity captured a set of colorful clouds feather-like clouds on January 27. “When illuminated by sunlight, certain types of clouds can create a rainbowlike display called iridescence,” NASA explains. Both photos above are panoramas stitched together from 28 images each before the rover sent them to Earth.
[via SciTech Daily]