The Curiosity rover sees colorful contrasting clouds on Mars
(CNN) – The Curiosity rover saw a colorful miracle on Mars: bright clouds.
In this frozen desert, except for red, the color is rare. But in the upper sky of Curiosity, the clouds appear to glow almost with color.
Unlike Earth, Mars does not have many cloudy days. The red planet has a thin, dry atmosphere, so clouds in the skies above the Mars equator appear cooler and every two Earth years from the sun in its oval-shaped orbit.
When Curiosity detected earlier clouds and formed more in the atmosphere than expected, it became two Earth years ago or a Mars year.
If the event were to happen again, Earth’s Curiosity team sent instructions to the rover to search for the first clouds in late January.
Curiosity’s camera captured brilliant clouds filled with ice crystals. These ice crystals glow as they scatter sunlight. Not only is it a dazzling scene, but these images help scientists understand more about Mars cloud formation.
These early clouds form at higher and cooler altitudes, so they are basically formed by dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide). Scientists are still studying them to find out why this happens.
Images taken in March by the rover’s navigation cameras capturing black and white photographs show ripples in the clouds. But the color images taken by the rover’s mast camera after sunset reveal bright, glowing clouds.
Why do you see glowing colored clouds on Mars?
When the sun goes down, these tall clouds are almost glowing, filled with ice crystals and reflect the fading sunlight. They darken when sunlight fades.
“If you see a cloud with bright pastel colors, it’s because the particles in the cloud are almost identical,” Mark Lehman, a meteorologist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement.
“It usually happens after the clouds form and everything grows at the same rate,” he said.
“I am always amazed at the colors that appear in red, greens, blues and purples,” Lemon said. “It’s so nice to see something glowing with a lot of color on Mars.”