“It’s really cool to see sky clouds shining with color on Mars.”
— Mark Lemmon, Ph.D., Atmospheric Scientist, Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado
May 30, 2021 NASA Curiosity Rover on Mars – Recently NASA’s Curiosity rover blog posted images of wispy twilight clouds in the Martian sky filled with ice crystals that scattered light from the setting sun. Some of the clouds even shimmer with faint colors. The twilight clouds, also known as “noctilucent” (Latin for “night shining”) clouds, grow brighter as they fill with crystals, then darken after the Sun’s position in the sky drops below their altitude.
NASA reports that one full Martian year ago – two Earth years – scientists noticed clouds forming over NASA’s Curiosity rover earlier than expected. This year, NASA scientists were ready to start documenting the “early” clouds from the moment they first appeared in late January 2021.
Water-ice Clouds or Dry-ice Clouds?
NASA: “The early-arrival clouds are actually at higher altitudes than is typical. Most Martian clouds hover no more than about 37 miles (60 kilometers) in the sky and are composed of water ice.
These twilight clouds, also known as “noctilucent” (Latin for “night shining”) clouds, grow brighter as they fill with crystals, then darken after the Sun’s position in the sky drops below their altitude. This is just one useful clue scientists use to determine how high they are.
But the clouds Curiosity has imaged are at a higher altitude, where it’s very cold, indicating that they are likely made of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice. Scientists look for subtle clues to establish a cloud’s altitude, and it will take more analysis to say for sure which of Curiosity’s recent images show water-ice clouds and which show dry-ice ones.
If you were skygazing on Mars next to Curiosity, you could see the faint iridescent reds, greens, blues and purple colors with the naked eye. “mother of pearl” clouds. “If you see a mother-of-pearl cloud with a shimmery pastel set of colors in it, that’s because the cloud particles are all nearly identical in size,” explains Mark Lemmon, Ph.D., an atmospheric scientist with the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “That’s usually happening just after the clouds have formed and have all grown at the same rate.”
“I always marvel at the colors that show up in Martian clouds: reds and greens and blues and purples,” Lemmon said. “It’s really cool to see sky clouds shining with color on Mars.”
12-19-2020 – A. I. Robot Dogs Training to Explore Caves On Mars.
04-19-2021 – NASA Ingenuity Helicopter Made Historic First Brief Test Flight On Mars Today.
02-18-2021 – Perseverance Landed On Mars Today Near 2 PM Mtn in “Seven Minutes of Terror” That Worked!
10-02-2019 – Both NASA and ESA Getting Ready for Mars Missions to Search for Life.
09-30-2019 – Is This the Next Rocket to Moon and Mars?
08-30-2019 – Updated with Audio and Video: Mountain-Size “Alien Grey” Face Discovered in Antarctica.
06-25-2019 – A Mysterious White Spot in Martian Sky and Surprising Methane Spike On the Red Planet.
06-14-2019 – NASA Mars Orbiter Photo of “Star Trek” Logo-Shaped Dune On Red Planet.
Mars Exploration Program: https://mars.nasa.gov/
NASA Curiosity Martian Rover: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/nasas-curiosity-rover-captures-shining-clouds-on-mars
NASA Solar System Exploration, Martian Atmospheric Science: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/studies/68/atmospheric-science-research-priorities-for-mars/
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