Curiosity sees twilight rays on Mars

The Curiosity rover photographed twilight rays on Mars for the first time. This optical phenomenon occurs when sunlight passes through gaps in clouds or through other objects and forms visible “light pillars” or “waves”.

Twilight rays on Mars. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Observations of the Martian atmosphere are one of the main scientific tasks of Curiosity. One of the ways to solve it is to search and photograph clouds. Their type, shape and composition can give scientists important information about the processes in the gas envelope of the Red Planet. 

In 2021, Curiosity photographed shining clouds on Mars for the first time. While typical Martian clouds consist of water ice, these structures consist of frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) and are much higher.

Two years later, scientists decided to re-study the clouds of the Red Planet. Only if last time Curiosity used black-and-white navigation cameras for shooting, now a color Mastcam camera was involved in the study. Researchers were waiting for a curious discovery. On February 2, 2023, Curiosity managed to photograph the twilight rays for the first time. They arose due to the presence of icy clouds in the sunset sky, through which the sun’s rays had to “break through”.

Colorful clouds on Mars. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In addition, a few days before, the rover also photographed a colorful cloud. The unusual brightness and colors of the structure are associated with a change in the size of its constituent ice particles, which refract sunlight.

According to

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