Space

Curiosity snaps fast-moving clouds in the Martian sky

Curiosity snaps fast-moving cl...
The Curiosity rover, seen here snapping a selfie in 2016, has turned its camera to the sky and taken some shots of fast-moving clouds in the Red Planet's atmosphere
The Curiosity rover, seen here snapping a selfie in 2016, has turned its camera to the sky and taken some shots of fast-moving clouds in the Red Planet's atmosphere
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The Curiosity rover snapped this shot of wispy clouds directly overhead
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The Curiosity rover snapped this shot of wispy clouds directly overhead
Curiosity snapped this image of clouds over the southern horizon
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Curiosity snapped this image of clouds over the southern horizon
This shot was taken in the sky directly above the Curiosity rover
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This shot was taken in the sky directly above the Curiosity rover
The Curiosity rover, seen here snapping a selfie in 2016, has turned its camera to the sky and taken some shots of fast-moving clouds in the Red Planet's atmosphere
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The Curiosity rover, seen here snapping a selfie in 2016, has turned its camera to the sky and taken some shots of fast-moving clouds in the Red Planet's atmosphere

Even robots exploring other planets need to take some time to unwind and just watch the clouds for a while. The Curiosity rover, which just last week celebrated its fifth anniversary on the Red Planet, has now sent back some of the clearest photos yet taken of extraterrestrial clouds.

The slideshows are made up of two sets of eight images, taken early in the morning of July 17. For the first set, the camera was pointed directly above the rover, while the second set of snaps captured the sky above the southern horizon.

To get the resulting level of clarity in the movement of the clouds, the images were enhanced by Curiosity's science team at York University. By generating an "average" of the light across all the frames of each group, and then subtracting the average from each individual frame, the changes in movement from one shot to the next could be emphasized.

Curiosity snapped this image of clouds over the southern horizon
Curiosity snapped this image of clouds over the southern horizon

Clouds may be an everyday occurrence here on Earth, but due to the elliptical orbit of Mars they're much more seasonal, forming a belt around the equator when the planet is at its furthest point from the Sun. Their presence two months before that happens means this is relatively early for the appearance of the cloud belt.

"It is likely that the clouds are composed of crystals of water ice that condense out onto dust grains where it is cold in the atmosphere," says John Moores, a scientist on the Curiosity team. "The wisps are created as those crystals fall and evaporate in patterns known as 'fall streaks' or 'mare's tails.' While the rover does not have a way to ascertain the altitude of these clouds, on Earth such clouds form at high altitude."

Check out the movement of the clouds in the video below.

Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Curiosity snaps Mars Clouds

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