Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch the sun set on another planet?
Well, this dazzling image below captures the stunning spectacle on Mars, and it’s the first time that the sun’s rays can be seen so clearly on the Red Planet.
It was captured by NASA’s veteran rover Curiosity, which landed on our neighboring planet in 2012.
Sunsets on Mars tend to be a bit moodier than those on Earth, but this one is especially striking because it shows beams of light illuminating a bank of clouds as the sun dips below the horizon.
Also known as twilight rays from the Latin word for “twilight,” the sun’s rays were captured on Feb. 2 as Curiosity conducted its latest twilight cloud survey.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to watch the sun set on another planet? Well, this dazzling image captures the stunning spectacle on Mars and it’s the first time that sun rays can be seen so clearly on the Red Planet
Interestingly, the sun’s rays from Mars aren’t the only spectacle Curiosity has captured recently. It also broke a series of colorful feather-shaped clouds (pictured). The image shows them taking on an almost rainbow-like appearance because they’ve been illuminated by sunlight in a process known as iridescence
The clouds in the image are special because they are much higher than usual and where it is extremely cold, meaning they are probably made of carbon dioxide or dry ice.
MARS: THE BASE
Mars is the fourth planet from the sun, with an “almost dead” dusty, cold desert world with a very thin atmosphere.
Mars is also a dynamic planet with seasons, polar ice caps, canyons, extinct volcanoes and evidence that Mars was even more active in the past.
It is one of the most researched planets in the solar system and the only planet humans have sent to explore.
A day on Mars lasts just over 24 hours and a year is 687 Earth days.
Facts and numbers
Orbit time: 687 days
Surface: 55.91 million mi²
Distance to Sun: 145 million miles
Gravity: 3,721 m/s²
Ray: 2,106 miles
Mane: Phobos, Deimos
Most clouds on Mars hover no more than 60 kilometers above the ground and are made up of water ice.
Curiosity’s latest research builds on its 2021 observations of noctilucent or noctilucent clouds.
It does this because clouds, in much the same way as on Earth, provide vital information to scientists who want to know more about the planet’s weather.
Experts can learn a lot about Mars’ atmosphere, including wind speeds and current temperatures, based on when and where clouds form.
While Curiosity’s 2021 cloud survey included the use of its black-and-white navigation cameras, this new one relies more on the rover’s color Mast Camera or Mastcam.
The difference is that the black and white cameras gave scientists the chance to study the structure of a cloud as it moves, while the color camera allows them to see how cloud particles grow over time.
This new cloud study started in January and will end in mid-March.
However, the sun’s rays from Mars aren’t the only spectacle Curiosity has captured recently.
It also broke a series of colorful feather-shaped clouds on January 27.
The image shows them taking on an almost rainbow-like appearance because they’ve been illuminated by sunlight in a process known as color game.
“Where we see iridescence, it means that a cloud’s particle size is identical to their neighbors in every part of the cloud,” said Mark Lemmon, an atmospheric scientist at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
‘By looking at color transitions, we see the particle size change throughout the cloud.
“That tells us about how the cloud evolves and how the particles change size over time.”
Both the sun’s rays and rainbow clouds were captured as panoramas by Curiosity and pieced together from 28 images that were sent back to NASA engineers on Earth.
In 2015, Curiosity captured a sequence of images of the sun setting at the end of Mars’ 956th day, or sol (pictured)
Milestone moment: This past August marked 10 years since NASA’s Curiosity rover (pictured) landed on the Red Planet
It comes eight years after Curiosity captured a series of stunning views of the setting sun at the end of its 956th Martian day, or sol.
The footage, stitched together into an animation, was captured by the rover’s mastcam and can be seen above.
Last August marked 10 years on the Red Planet for the rover.
The one-ton vehicle launched from Earth in November 2011 and – after an arduous nine-month journey, including the “seven minutes of terror” to the surface of Mars – set out to look for evidence that Mars once supported life.
Since then, the rover has driven more than 18 miles and climbed more than 2,000 feet as it explored Gale Crater and the foothills of Mount Sharp within the crater.
The rover has analyzed some 40 rock and soil samples and relies on an array of scientific instruments to learn what they reveal about Earth’s rocky sibling.
Such was the success that what was originally intended to be a two-year mission was later extended indefinitely, leading to a rather busy decade.
Curiosity has been studying the Red Planet’s skies — capturing images of shining clouds and passing moons — while the rover’s radiation sensor has allowed scientists to measure the amount of future astronauts they would be exposed to on the surface of Mars , allowing NASA to figure out how to keep them safe.
Most importantly, the rover found that both liquid water and the chemical building blocks and nutrients needed to sustain life have been present in Gale Crater for at least tens of millions of years.
Although it has been joined by a new NASA rover in Perseverance in February 2021, Curiosity will continue to do its job while being led by the US Space Agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
LAUNCHED IN 2011, THE NASA MARS CURIOSITY ROVER HAS IMPROVED OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE RED PLANET
The Mars rover Curiosity first launched on November 26, 2011 from Cape Canaveral, a United States Air Force station in Florida.
After traveling 560 million km (350 million miles), the £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) research vehicle landed just 1.5 miles away from its designated landing site.
After a successful landing on August 5, 2012, the rover covered approximately 18 km.
It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft, and the rover made up 23 percent of the total mission’s mass.
With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source.
The rover is 2.9 meters long, 2.7 meters wide and 2.2 meters high.
The Mars Curiosity rover was initially envisioned as a two-year mission to collect information to help answer whether the planet could support life, has liquid water, can study the climate and geology of Mars and has been active for more than 3,700 sols since then.
The rover was initially envisioned as a two-year mission to collect information to help answer whether the planet could support life, have liquid water, study the climate and geology of Mars.
Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and is now over 3,700 sols active.
The rover carries several scientific instruments, including the mastcam, which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution photos and videos in true color.
So far on the car-sized robot’s journey he has come across an ancient stream bed where liquid water used to flow, not long after he also discovered that billions of years ago a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.