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Curiosity rover images incredibly 'terrestrial' clouds on Mars

Curiosity rover images incredibly ‘terrestrial’ clouds on Mars

If you find a postcard in your mailbox with the image you see in the preview image, you can guess it’s from Arizona. However, the reality is even stranger. The image with a rock and wisps of clouds comes from Mars.

The image in the Gale crater region was taken by the robotic Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the red planet since 2012 in the service of the US space agency NASA. The image consists of 21 snapshots from March 19 this year. The result is a computer manipulating and adjusting so that human eyes see the scene.


Glowing clouds float over the crater on March 19. | Source: Credit-NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Clouds are not as common on Mars as they are on Earth. The planet has a dry atmosphere, and clouds in the sky around the equator usually appear only when Mars is farther from the sun once every two years on Earth in its elliptical orbit.

But this year, the rover recorded “early” clouds before the start of this period of the Martian year. His image captures shimmering clouds filled with ice crystals that scatter the sunset light.


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Clouds over the crater were photographed after sunset on March 28. | Source: Credit-NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Most of the clouds in the Martian sky float at an altitude of 60 kilometers and contain water ice.

However, some of those observed by the Curiosity spacecraft may be even higher – in places where it is very cold. It likely contains frozen carbon dioxide, that is, dry ice.

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The clouds’ undulating structures can be seen more fluidly in images from Curiosity’s black and white navigation cameras. Color images from Mastcam show how the clouds glow. Right after sunset, its ice crystals capture the faint light and illuminate the dark sky.


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Clouds were recorded after sunset on March 31. | Source:
Provimedia

“I am amazed at the colors that appear in clouds – red, green, blue and purple,” NASA’s website quoted astronomer Mark Lemon of the Colorado Space Science Institute as saying. “It’s really cool to see something on Mars that shines so much colour.

Scientists are now analyzing the clouds and trying to determine their height and composition.


profimedia-0379529576 Curiosity

And finally, greetings from the Curiosity rover. The robotic car crosses the Martian dunes on it. | Source:
Provimedia