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NASA: Rover Curiosity Captures Amazing Cloud Images on Mars

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NASA’s Curiosity rover captured images of clouds on Mars – as described in a blog post: “small clouds filled with ice crystals that scatter the light of the setting sun, some of them glowing with color.”

According to NASA, clouds are rare in Mars’ thin atmosphere, but usually form at its equator during the coldest time of year. Scientists noticed that last year – two years ago in the time of planet Earth – there were clouds starting to form earlier than expected, so they got ready for this year.

The images are not only impressive, but provided new insights for NASA’s Curiosity team. The first clouds are at higher altitudes than most Martian clouds – which typically hover about 59.5 kilometers above the planet’s surface and are composed of icy water. Higher-altitude clouds are likely composed of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, says NASA.

NASA Rover Curiosity Captures Amazing Cloud Images on Mars

Curiosity provided both black and white and color images. However, the black and white photos show the wavy details of the clouds more clearly.

However, it’s the color photos taken from the rover’s mast chamber and pasted together, using the various images, that are really impressive. NASA describes them like this:

“Seen shortly after sunset, their ice crystals catch the dim light, making them appear to glow against the darkening sky. These twilight clouds, also known as ‘noctilucent’ clouds (‘night glow’ in Latin), get brighter as they fill with crystals and then darken after the sun’s position in the sky drops below its altitude. This is just a useful clue used by scientists to determine how high they are.”

NASA Rover Curiosity Captures Amazing Cloud Images on Mars

Curiosity also captured images of iridescent “mother-of-pearl” clouds, with pastel colors throughout. Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in the NASA publication that these colors come from cloud particles nearly identical in size. “This usually happens right after the clouds have formed and they have all grown at the same speed,” he explained.

Lemmon didn’t hide that he was amazed by the colors seen in these clouds: reds, greens, blues and purples. “It’s really cool to see something glowing with lots of colors on Mars.”

Source: TheVerge

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