NASA’s Curiosity rover captured images of clouds on the surface of Mars with: “soft puffs filled with ice crystals scattering light from sunset, some glimmering with color,” according to the verege blog post.
Mark Lemon, an atmospheric scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said that clouds are rare in the thin atmosphere of Mars, but they usually form at a streak, expressing his admiration for the colors that appear in these clouds, red, green, blues and violets, and said, “It’s really cool. To see something bright with a lot of color on Mars.”
During the coldest time of the year, scientists noticed that last year – two years before Earth time – there were clouds that started forming earlier than expected, so they were ready this year.
Not only is the image spectacular, it provided new insights to the Curiosity team at NASA, the early clouds are located at higher altitudes than most of the Martian clouds – which usually hover 37 miles above the surface of the planet and consist of water ice, NASA says that the high clouds are likely to be Made from frozen carbon dioxide or dry ice.
And Curiosity provided both black and white and color images – black and white photos show the wavy details of clouds more clearly.
NASA describes the colossal color photos taken from the rover’s mast camera and grouped together.
When viewed just after sunset, its ice crystals pick up a pale light, making them appear to glow against the dark sky. These twilight clouds, also known as “nocturnal clouds” (Latin for “night brightness”), get brighter because they are filled with crystals. It then darkens after the sun’s position in the sky drops below its height, which may be one useful clue that scientists use to determine how high it is.
Curiosity has also captured images of iridescent “mother of pearl” clouds, with pastel colors throughout. These colors come from cloud particles that are nearly identical in size, Mark Lemon, an atmospheric scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a NASA publication. “It usually happens right after the clouds form and they all grow at the same rate.”
Lemon said he marvels at the colors in these clouds—reds, greens, blues, and violets—“It’s really cool to see something so bright with so much color on Mars.”