The footage was taken on February 6, NASA said, and showed the phenomenon as the sun set on the planet. This is the first time, NASA said, that the sun’s rays, also known as crepuscular rays, have been seen so clearly.
NASA shared a glimpse of what the rover had captured on their Twitter account. The image shows a gray sky over a black stone landscape with visible patches of red and green light.
The moment was captured as the rover conducted a twilight cloud survey based on previous observations of clouds. Previously taken images of Martian clouds show that they are made of water ice and no longer hover 37 miles above the Martian surface. The new images taken by Curiosity appear to show clouds at “higher altitudes where it’s particularly cold,” NASA said, suggesting the clouds are made of carbon dioxide ice or dry ice.
Another image, NASA said, shows a “feather-shaped iridescent cloud.” The image, taken just after sunset on January 27, helps provide scientists with information about the particle sizes in the clouds.
Both images, NASA said, were captured as panoramas, “each of which was assembled from 28 images sent to Earth.” The images “have been processed to emphasize the highlights,” the agency said.
Curiosity’s previous cloud survey, conducted in 2021, used black-and-white navigation cameras to get a detailed look at the structure of moving clouds, but the newer survey, which began in January, uses the rover’s color camera to see how cloud particles grow over time. NASA said. The current study will be completed in mid-March.
“As on Earth, clouds provide scientists with complex but crucial information for understanding the weather. By looking at when and where clouds form, scientists can learn more about the composition and temperatures of the Martian atmosphere and its winds,” NASA said.
Curiosity was launched in 2011 and landed on Mars in August 2012. According to NASA, the rover’s primary mission is to determine whether Mars can support tiny life forms known as microbes. In the past, Curiosity has found evidence of previously habitable environments on Mars, and it has found carbon, a “key ingredient of life” on the planet.