Curiosity Sees Spectacular Crepuscular Rays in Martian Clouds


NASA’s Curiosity Rover normally appears down on the floor, learning close by rocks and craters. However generally, it appears up and sees one thing great.

A brand new picture launched by Curiosity reveals stunning solar rays, referred to as crepuscular rays, streaming by means of a financial institution of clouds on Mars at sundown. Whereas comparatively widespread right here on Earth, they’ve by no means been seen on Mars. Crepuscular comes from crepusculum, the Latin phrase for twilight.

One other picture from the rover reveals a feather-shaped iridescent cloud within the excessive ambiance on Mars.

Curiosity, the ‘elder’ rover on Mars, has been learning the Crimson Planet for over 10 years. Not too long ago, Curiosity has turned its cameras skyward in a brand new cloud-imaging marketing campaign, with a give attention to learning clouds at twilight. This builds on its 2021 observations of clouds, together with noctilucent, or night-shining, clouds.

The picture of crepuscular rays was captured by Curiosity at sundown on Feb. 2, 2023, the three,730th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

Crepuscular rays — additionally referred to as solar rays and sunbeams — are created when daylight shines by means of gaps in clouds and continues by means of an environment that accommodates mud and/or haze. This mud or haze scatters among the vibrant gentle that may be seen in opposition to the darker clouds.

NASA says that whereas most Martian clouds hover not more than 37 miles (60 kilometers) above the bottom and are composed of water ice, the clouds within the newest photos seem like at the next altitude, the place it’s particularly chilly. That means these clouds are product of carbon dioxide ice, or dry ice.

This feather-shaped iridescent cloud was captured simply after sundown on Jan. 27, 2023, the three,724th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s mission. Learning the colours in iridescent clouds tells scientists one thing about particle measurement inside the clouds and the way they develop over time.  Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Along with the picture of solar rays, Curiosity captured these shimmery, colourful clouds formed like a feather on January 27, 2023. When illuminated by daylight, sure forms of clouds can create a rainbowlike show referred to as iridescence.

“The place we see iridescence, it means a cloud’s particle sizes are equivalent to their neighbors in every a part of the cloud,” stated Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist with the House Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, in a JPL press launch. “By shade transitions, we’re seeing particle measurement altering throughout the cloud. That tells us about the best way the cloud is evolving and the way its particles are altering measurement over time.”

Curiosity captured each the solar rays and iridescent clouds as panoramas, every of which was stitched collectively from 28 photos despatched to Earth. The photographs have been processed to emphasise the highlights.

Search for extra of those ‘moody’ however serene photos from Curiosity because it continues it upward-looking imaging marketing campaign.

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